By Dale McGarrigle
Special to The Weekly
BREWER, Maine — Gunn’s Sports Shop is an example of a business concentrating on one thing and doing it well.
Gunn’s, at 32 Green Point Road, has focused on skates for the past 36 years.
Rick Gunn, the store’s owner and president, explained that about three-quarters of Gunn’s business is hockey, both ice and street, with the remaining quarter including figure skating, rollerblading and skateboarding. Individual customers make up 75 percent of Gunn’s business, with teams the other 25 percent.
Gunn’s offers everything that a hockey player, new or experienced, would need: skates, sticks, helmets, face-shields and padding. The store also has stations for re-molding and re-stitching boots and sharpening skates, repair parts, and the Fresh Gear machine, an ozone generator that kills the bacteria in worn equipment.
There are hundreds of pairs of used skates, some of which Gunn’s took as trade-ins, and other used equipment that is left on consignment.
Gunn said that several factors go into a person having an unsatisfactory experience on skates. These include skates that are of poor quality or the wrong size or blades that aren’t sharpened.
He added that hockey need not be an expensive sport to sample. “You can get into it reasonably inexpensively through recreational programs with loaner and rental equipment,” Gunn said. “For goaltenders and those on travel teams, it gets more expensive.”
It’s not enough to stock dozens of styles and sizes, Gunn said. It’s even more important that the equipment fit comfortably.
“We don’t believe it should be one-size-fits-all,” he said. “We want it to fit properly.”
That’s an example of the customer service that has been Rick Gunn’s mantra for nearly four decades.
Gunn got into retail largely by accident. When he couldn’t find work with his natural-resources degree after graduating from the University of Maine in 1975, he ended up working for his father Richard, who ran a small pro shop at the Biddeford Ice Arena.
It was there that Gunn first heard opportunity knocking. At the time, the University of Maine only had a club team. When that team came south to play in tournaments, the players would bring not only their skates, but friends’ skates as well, to be sharpened.
So, in 1977, around the time Alfond Arena was set to open, Gunn started his Sports Shop in Orono.
“I didn’t have a job [in his field], so I took a leap of faith,” he recalled. “I figured I could always bail out if I had to.”
Gunn’s stayed in Orono for 15 years, then moved to Stillwater Avenue in Bangor for a decade, and finally came to its current location about a decade ago.
“We saw tremendous growth for about 10 years, then it stabilized for about 10 years, and then it’s tailed off, for various reasons: the economy in the area, the loss of high-school teams, the nature of kids today, who are more apt to play video games than a sport,” Gunn explained.
Gunn’s combination of specialization and customer service has kept customers coming back.
“We want kids to be comfortable,” Gunn said. “We want to have repeat customers. It’s nice to see generations of families come in.”
Gunn’s Sports Shop is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m., weekdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. For information, call 207-989-9838, email email@example.com or visit gunnssportsshop.com.