Local Business

Sportseller celebrates 40 years in business

  • Time to celebrate: LaKae Tavares, left, and Sharon Fenn, owner of Sportseller, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a number of free events and in-store prize draws (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Time to celebrate: LaKae Tavares, left, and Sharon Fenn, owner of Sportseller, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a number of free events and in-store prize draws (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

One of the island’s most well-known sport shops is marking its 40th anniversary in style with 40 days of celebration.

Sportseller opened its doors in February 1979 and moved to Washington Mall two years later — where it has been ever since.

To mark its 40 years in business, a series of free weekly events, encompassing yoga, running, circuit training and workouts, are being held in the Mall after closing time.

Meanwhile, each day during the 40 days of celebration customers at the shop have a chance to win a prize draw gift.

The extensive celebrations have been devised by Sharon Fenn, who has worked in the shop for almost 26 years, the last 16 as owner.

The idea of hosting a weekly free event during the 40 days of celebrations has its roots in the success of the shop’s yearlong ‘Thirsty Thursday Runs’ for customers, which were held in 2017 and 2018.

“We had great success with those, so we decided to do seven events. But we didn’t want to do seven runs. Since Debbie [Butterfield] opened the store, Sportseller has evolved,” said Mrs Fenn.

“The whole fitness industry has evolved. We are not just a running store any more; we now do fitness, swim, and yoga. I wanted the seven events to reflect that.”

Those events have included a Pilates mat class, a “rum run” where participants tried out new running shoes from Swiss brand On, a women-only workout and wine and a men-only yoga session. The final free events, all on Wednesdays this month, are a yoga for athletes session, a metabolic circuit training class and a 5K glow run and walk.

“Life is about balance. Yes, we all love to work out, but you can have a life too. And it was our birthday, that’s what we are calling it. So we have a party after each one of our events,” said Mrs Fenn.

Sportseller has been promoting its events on Facebook, Instagram and an e-mail distribution list to 2,000 customers. There is also a large window display listing the events.

Inside the shop is a large calendar that lists the prize draw gifts for each of the 40 days.

Mrs Fenn contacted all the shop’s overseas vendors to ask if they would assist with the prizes and was delighted by the almost unanimously positive responses.

“Every day we have either a gift with each purchase, or a draw prize within the store.”

Mrs Fenn said the events were not only about promoting Sportseller, but also supporting businesses, both locally and overseas.

Sportseller was started by Debbie and Jim Butterfield, and opened its doors on February 23, 1979. In September 1989, Sutherland Madeiros took over the business, and it was during his ownership years that Mrs Fenn came on board as a sales assistant. Ten years later she became the owner.

Reflecting on the changes she has seen, Mrs Fenn said: “When Suthy bought the store he dabbled in swimming, cycling and triathlon [products]. The swimming has stuck, and we have added yoga in a big way — it’s become a big part of people’s life.”

The shop also sells active leisurewear, recovery items including foam rollers, running singlets, shorts and running shoes from a variety of brands, including Nike, On, Mizuno, Saucony and Asics.

Mrs Fenn has seen running shoes evolve from “severe, structured shoes for people with flat feet to motion control shoes”.

She added: “Shoe components have become so much lighter. It used to be unusual to find a shoe weighing 6oz, they just didn’t exist. Whereas now shoes between 6oz and 10oz are incredibly common.

“We have also seen changes in the industry towards brands that are on the edge, like Hoka and On.”

She said Sportseller “goes to the nitty-gritty to get the right shoe for the right person. We get them to try on different shoes before they come to the conclusion of the one they actually need”.

Mrs Fenn enjoys the interaction with customers, and takes satisfaction from seeing those who come to the store looking to breakaway from a sedentary lifestyle, who make dramatic improvements and become regular customers.

The shop serves a wide cross-section of customers, including tourists who appreciate its niche focus.

“We get a lot of tourists who come in and shop here because, believe it or not, they can’t find these things near them. What we carry — a lot of our products are specialty products that are not going to turn up in a Footlocker or a Dick’s Sporting Goods.”

The shop has a small number of staff, including full-time member LaKae Tavares. She has a degree in kinesiology and is a national hockey team player.

Mrs Fenn said: “LaKae is very well-versed in the human body, how it moves and what it does. She’s been a great addition.”

A tradition that has been maintained at the store for its entire 40 years is the keeping of handwritten records of sales.

Mrs Fenn said: “I have Debbie’s handwritten records of sales from day one, I also have Suthy’s, and we keep that tradition even with all the computer technology we have going on in this store. We still, every day, write our sales in a book.”

Looking to the future, Mrs Fenn said she still has a passion for Sportseller and the service it delivers, but she knows the time will come when, like Mrs Butterfield and Mr Madeiros before her, she will step away.

She said: “I celebrated 40 years because I thought I will probably not be the owner for the 50 years anniversary — that will be someone else’s celebration to plan.

“Sportseller has been passed on to people who are passionate about it. I’d certainly want to pass it on to someone who is as passionate about it as Debbie was, as Suthy was, and as I am.”

Sportseller’s next free event is ‘Yoga for Athletes’ this evening. For more details of the celebrations, go to the Facebook page @sportseller.bermuda or Instagram @sportsellerbermuda