BELLINGHAM - After 41 years in business, Sportsman Chalet is making plans to close.
The sporting goods store, next to Trader Joe's in the Sunnyland Square retail center, is currently closed as it prepares for its liquidation sale, which kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, and will last until everything is sold, said owner Noel Lemke.
While current economic conditions are a factor, Lemke said significant changes in the past 10 years in the retail industry played a big role in his decision to close the store. Currently the store is "ahead of the game," but he realized that if he kept it open the store would become unprofitable.
Online shopping has hurt Sportsman Chalet's sales more than the recent arrival of a few national sporting good stores, Lemke said. Websites make it easier to shop and compare prices, something a local retail store can't really offer, he said.
"Service is what we could offer," Lemke said. Although he's received a lot of positive comments about the service, it wasn't enough to offset the growth of online shopping.
Steve Brewster started Sportsman Chalet in 1972 and was in a few locations in Bellingham before settling in the downtown area in 1995. In September 2001 the business was sold to Lemke, who kept the store on Holly Street before moving to Sunnyland Square in 2010.
Through the years the store became known for its products and service in three sports: skiing/snowboarding, soccer and tennis. It also offers a variety of clothing, as well as products for other outdoor sports.
Lemke said what he's going to miss most is working with the customers, particularly seeing families over the years. He's not sure what his plans are after the store closes but said it'll be strange if he ends up leaving retail. He's been in the industry since working at his father's bookstore as a teenager.
The one thing he would ask customers to do is continue to support locally owned businesses, because he said those stores are a wealth of local knowledge. He recalls years ago after the Bellingham climbing store Base Camp closed, it left a big hole in the community in terms of having a place to go for local information.
"Even just the small things can make a big difference in whether a local store remains profitable," Lemke said.
During the liquidation sale, hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For further details, go to sportsmanchalet.com or visit the store's Facebook page.