Arvia: Grandstand’s last stand?
PHIL ARVIA firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5949 November 18, 2011 10:34PM
Grandstand Sports on the corner of 35th and Wallace in Chicago, Illinois photographed Wednesday afternoon November 16, 2011. | Art Vassy~Sun-Times Media
“That store has set a very high bar. We’re modeling our business, our creativity, based on a non-team-owned store.”
Brooks Boyer, White Sox marketing vice-president, on Grandstand, the neighborhood sports shop down the street from U.S. Cellular’s huge new Chicago Sports Depot, which opened Saturday.
Updated: December 21, 2011 8:11AM
One of the lesser-known tales of glory from the White Sox’s run to the 2005 World Series title sprang from Grandstand, the jam-packed sports clothing and memorabilia store a few blocks west of U.S. Cellular Field on 35th Street.
That August, the Sox had lost seven straight. Timo Perez took it upon himself to change the team’s luck by hanging a rather large pair of panties in the clubhouse.
Streak over, thanks to Timo’s timely off-the-rack selection from Grandstand. Back then, I asked Grandstand owner Pete Powers if he planned on posting a sign reading, “Get Your Rally Panties Here.”
“Nah, I wouldn’t do anything like that,” he said. “It’s a family store.”
Again last week, Powers demonstrated he doesn’t easily get his undies in a bunch.
Saturday, the White Sox opened Chicago Sports Depot, a retail space as impressive and expansive as Grandstand’s is unassuming and cozy. The new store, with its 12,000 square feet of space spread over two floors, with ceilings high enough to host volleyball matches, with space enough for a White Sox motorcycle, 77 video monitors, $45 coaster sets filled with authenticated game-used infield dirt and exactly three-quarters of one rack of Cubs merchandise, sits opposite the Cell, with plenty of parking available and easy expressway access.
Grandstand, with its aisles you have to turn sideways to navigate, sat three blocks to the west, ready to welcome its new neighbor — and the neighbor’s overflow visitors.
Standing near the bridge connecting Depot to Cell, Sox marketing chief Brooks Boyer spoke fondly of Powers, his wife, Rosemary, and their daughter and son-in-law — the team that runs Grandstand.
“They’re great people,” he said. “They’re dyed-in-the-wool White Sox fans. ... They knew about this place before the public knew.”
According to Powers, the Sox came to him five years ago with an offer to run their new shop. The offer, though, would have required shuttering Grandstand, which opened in 1986 in Chicago Ridge Mall before moving in 1989 to 35th and Wallace.
“It was indicated quite a few times,” Powers said of the Sox’s belief Grandstand should close. “And the truth is, in order to do (the new store) right, we would have had to close it.
“That’s not something we’re willing to do. This is our family business.”
Not that Powers is casting himself as David taking on the Goliath down the block.
“We welcome it,” he said. “We need people in this neighborhood. We need bars and restaurants, too.”
Hopefully, they can coexist, as each does much to enhance the oft-maligned fan experience outside the ballpark. The Depot does so in especially, but not offensively, slick ways, while Grandstand feels a bit like the sort of restaurant you discover and then tell only a few friends about, lest it become too popular and crowds wreck the place.
Shoppers eager enough for unique team apparel to trek to the Cell should avail themselves of both spots. Each has plenty of items you won’t find at the other, and most certainly won’t find at Dick’s Sporting Goods and the like.
Asked if he’d like to see Grandstand stick around, Boyer said, “I sure hope so,” and volunteered the Depot owes a debt to Grandstand.
“That store has set a very high bar,” he said. “We’re modeling our business, our creativity, based on a non-team-owned store.
“It’s the creativity that allows us to bring in 3,600 items. We can’t think like a normal team story.”
But, if you’re bargain hunting, well, let’s just say ballpark prices remain ballpark prices.
“Our prices will be competitive with street pricing,” Boyer said, noting all prices at the Depot include tax.
Taxes or no, Grandstand still seemed like a pretty good deal on a few items found at both stores. For example: Replica Blackhawks jerseys, $114.95 at Grandstand, $159 at the Depot; Derrick Rose jerseys, $79.95/$99; Sox replica jerseys $99.95/$135.
Besides, while I can’t be sure they weren’t hiding somewhere in those 12,000 square feet, I didn’t see any Sox panties at the Depot.