There used to be a hardware store in downtown Orono where I could go to get a replacement sink, a bag of nails, a bucket, some seeds and a screwgun. I could wander the small isles, talk to neighbors and get advice on deck sealer but it sold off it’s overstock of pink paint and closed it’s doors last year.
There used to be a place that sold Maine made products like t-shirts and jewelry and pancake mix but they moved to Rhode Island. There was once a record store and a curiosity shop and an art supply place. All gone.
In its place we have two breweries, a yoga studio (where my wife works) and a wingery. These are not bad things to have but I do miss the hardware store and that pancake mix is darn hard to find.
I’m no professor of small town economics but it’s fairly clear that burritos sell better than bracelets and food, beverage and soul centering are more in line with the needs of our college town than lag bolts.
In the world of youth sports we have all seen a number of shops go under in recent years, washed away by the tide of super-saver deals at Wal-Mart, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon.com. It’s easier to buy a mitt at the same place you get your hot dogs or click a button and in 5-6 days your Monster Truck play set arrives at your door (assuming you’ve shoveled out a tunnel for the delivery guy to burrow through).
Still a few stalwarts survive. Standing against this erosion are a host of specialty shops like the Old Town Trading Post, the Ski Rack, Rose’s Bike Shop and Gunn’s Sport Shop all of which offer competitive pricing and the type of expert advice you’re not going to find on the looming shelves of a giant retail chain.
Rick Gunn opened his Sports store 38 years ago and has weathered the tides of fortune by catering to the hockey market. Ask anyone associated with hockey in this area where to go for gear and they’ll tell you to go to Gunns. Need a sharpening? Go to Gunns. Need that first set of XS pads for the little one? Go to Gunns. Need a stick? Go to Gunns? Need a cup? Go to Gunns. If you need it, they have it…or they’ll get it.
When Zane started skating and then I started skating and then Augi started skating and then Holly started skating…we went to Gunns. Why?
Casey Harris says, “Two things: first, it’s great to be a part of the Gunn’s Sport Shop family. Second, even if you have the cash and they have the fanciest “whatever it is” in stock, the crew at Gunn’s will not over-sell you (period). That’s important in a time when a flashy new stick can seem as important as a good wrist shot with a good stick!”
Gillian Kirlin says, “They have always helped us keep within our budget (which at times has been very small). I would rather pay a couple dollars more and get the personal service and know that the equipment fits right.”
Lisa Scripture says, “Love when we walk through the door and they instantly greet my kids by name! That alone would be enough but they also engage them in conversation and take a true interest in what they are up to in sports and life! You are not going to find that kind of personal service at any big box chain!”
Let us all remember that we are a community. Gunn’s and Rose’s and the Ski Rack and your local pro-shop and your gymnastics academy are there when we need them. They’re there to answer questions and give advice. That hardware store isn’t.
For more information on Gunns please visit: http://gunnshockey.com/
Added Bonus Material: Congratulations to Matt Needham, the young man profiled in the previous post, “A Special Goal” and his Maine Junior Black Bears Silver Squirt Team as they reached the Tier IV State Semi-Finals this past weekend at the Penobscot Ice Arena in Brewer…which is just down the road from Gunn’s by the way.