Small Business Q&A: Elite Sports East Cobb
This specialty retailer customizes baseball, softball and corporate team shirts along with stocking a selection of player supplies and team spirit wear.
The youth baseball fall season is in full swing, which gives Elite Sports East Cobb's hands-on shop owner Ron Brooks time to get ready for end of the year holiday gift-giving, as he restocks the 1,000-square-foot retail space located next to Kroger in The Pavillions on Roswell Road
The East Cobb youth baseball niche market provides mainstay of customers for Brooks who has a teenage son who plays competitive ball.
Brooks said the economy has changed the buying patterns of his customers, as he has noticed less free spending and more planned purchases. His stock of sporting goods includes the latest Mizuno infield glove with a price tag of $500 and aluminum and composite bats with a price range of $150 to $400.
There are six Elite Sports "eam dealers," five are located in Georgia, all are individually owned according to Brooks, who comes to retail from a sales background.
Brooks is a licensed customs broker with 20 years experience in international shipping. A job brought the New York native and his family to Cobb from a previous South Florida assignment.
"I was petrified to work for myself. But, now that I'm doing it, I'll always be self employed. If this place should fail, I'll try something else," Brooks said. "I tell my son, save for retirement starting from your first paycheck. And, work for yourself because it's impossible for an employer to pay you what you're worth. Business owners have to make money off of their employees."
Brooks has one part-time employee who first walked into the store as a customer, shopping for three sons who play travel baseball. Various vendors supply silk screening and embroidering services.
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. I can dress casual. No socks(deadpan delivery). And, this is a fun sell. I'm happy to help parents pick out bats and gloves for their kids.
Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?
A If you drew not-that-big-of a radius, around the store, there are 1,000's of kids who play baseball or girls' softball nearby.
We live here, too. It's a safe and easy community. There are less problems than other areas and it's not a crazy expensive place to live.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. There are no other independent sporting goods stores in East Cobb.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. I was ready for a change in my career, the economy was tanking, I wanted to travel less for work, and, I wanted to do something on my own.
I don't consider myself as an entrepreneur. I'm a customer service guy. I'd rather go out of business than have a customer walk out disappointed.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. We make custom team uniforms. I will do on-site fittings. Say, if your team practices at a park, I'll go to your practice and bring the shirts and fit there instead of having each member come to my store.
I carry jerseys in sizes youth XS to adult XXXXL.
Q. When did you start your business?
A. I bought the name in October 2008 and opened that November.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. My wife knew a woman who has an Elite store and I thought it was something that I'd like to try. I bought rights into the Elite Sports buying group which gives access to brands like Rawlings. I bought inventory, funded the build-out of this space, signed a lease, and, bought a business license, etc. I had saved up capital.
My wife works full time for a corporation, I couldn't do this without her help with household income.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. Buy from local merchants when they've got what you're looking for. Local businesses are the ones who support community fundraisers and local activities.
I sell stuff for less than big box stores or online retailers. I can discount stuff when they can't.
When I do shirts for a team, the parents can come here and shop and get 20 percent off of merchandise. I don't mind discounting. I go above and beyond my competition when it comes to customer service.
Ron Brooks, owner
2100 Roswell Road, Suite 2168