To say Kings Bay Athletics is not what you think it is would be an understatement. For more than 40 years, this family-run business in the Kings Bay Plaza at South Dixie Highway and SW 144th Street has done more than survive; they’ve created a unique and thriving enterprise.
Most people walking through the doors would expect a neighborhood sporting goods store, but they’d be somewhat wrong. Yes, they have cleats, basketballs, lacrosse gear and baseball gloves. But more importantly, that’s just specially selected merchandise to purchase after you are in the store for what you already came for.
“We generate only 10 percent of our sales from what is hanging on our walls,” said Larry Barfield, who founded the business with his wife Colleen. “The lion’s share of the revenue comes from custom work that Kings Bay Athletics churns out. Think of them as high-tech graphic art with massive manufacturing and production capabilities to turn out customized ‘just about anythings’.”
You may not realize it, but the store outfits thousands of kids in South Florida’s sports leagues and schools. They also customize apparel and other items for the likes of Fairchild Tropical Gardens and Joanna’s Marketplace. This mom-and-pop business is anything but small, with surprisingly strong revenue.
“We learned long ago that if your business is relying on people just walking in the door, you’re not going to survive,” said Barfield. “That’s why we became what we are today, a highly technological customization business. In our business model, people have no choice but to come in so we can give them exactly what they want.” Barfield is alluding to their couponing system, which took their business to a new level about 10 years ago.
“We call it guerilla marketing where everybody wins,” said store manager Andrew Wesolowski. “It used to be that a league would measure and order baseball uniforms for each player. When we delivered, ultimately some things didn’t fit right. It wasn’t a great experience for anyone until we figured out that by simply issuing coupons and having the child come in, we’d ensure a perfect fit every time.”
“Once in the store, we’d simply pull exact fit items from our shelves,” Barfield added. “We’ve developed a sophisticated spreadsheet that ensures we always have just the right stock and sizes available.”
For example, with 1,200 kids playing baseball in a league, it means 1,200 parents walking in the door. Kings Bay Athletics also prides itself in making sure they have the cleats, basketballs, lacrosse gear and baseball gloves ready to go as add-ons, always making sure they are competitive on pricing.
“We carry what we’ve learned people need and we can often sell at or below the Internet pricing” said Wesolowski’s wife Jennie who is the store co-manager. “If we can’t, we just don’t sell that item.”
This philosophy is a win-win proposition for all.
“We used to sell 225 different models of sports shoes, but now we sell primary cleats only in kids’ sizes,” said Andrew Wesolowski. “And we have pre-selected the shoes that are the best value for our customers.”
Unlike several other sporting goods stores that have come and gone, Kings Bay Athletics has figured out what the area needs and they customize specifically to that audience.
Kings Bay Athletics’ ability to innovate in this way has led to their business stability. Over the years they morphed their store from sporting goods to scuba, surf, skateboard, tennis and even a gun shop.
“The key is to be what people need us to be, when they need it,” said Barfield. “It’s about being nimble and supplying the demand that is already there. Today they need a smart shop that just gets it done and that’s what Kings Bay Athletics delivers.”
The Barfields recently stepped away from Kings Bay Athletics, but the business shows no sign of slowing down.
Beyond being a great business, Kings Bay Athletics is pretty lucky in love too. The Barfields have seen employees become families over the years. The friendly staff really loves working together and that stems from the store’s culture. The Wesolowskis met at the store and were married in 2008.
They are now the centerpiece of the business and look forward to the next 40 years of growth and community.
If you haven’t already been inside Kings Bay Athletics, 14465 S. Dixie Hwy., you should stop in soon or go to www.KingsBayAthletics.com or call 305-235-1167.
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Hal Feldman is a Realtor with RE/MAX Advance Realty. Contact him with story ideas or real estate questions at www.MiamiHal.com.