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The Play's the Thing

Retail Options for Sports Equipment Runs Gamut From High-Tech to Used


It's one thing to look like a tennis or golf pro, sporting the right shoes, the right outfit and racket or club du jour.

It's an entirely different matter, however, when you actually step onto the court or the course and can only strike a pose.

For those who only want to look the part, this story isn't for you. You know where to shop if you want to make a fashion statement.

However, for those who actually want to play the sport, you can break the dress code and find what rules in your favorite pastime with a little help from several sporting goods stores.

At Oshman's in the Irvine Spectrum, for instance, getting hands-on experience while you shop is an integral function of the store.

The play areas, mostly located around the perimeter of the store, include a racquetball court, golf simulator, basketball courts, an alpine racing machine and a batting cage.

It's not unusual, especially around lunchtime, to see executive types (recently, Irvine Co. chairman Donald L. Bren), trying their hand in the cage or going one-on-one on the basketball court.

"We're not your normal store," said Chuck Potter, general manager at the newly opened location. "We want people to come in and enjoy themselves. The play areas are also a place for us to show the customer the differences in the equipment and how it will affect their game."

Or see how well they match up with the pros. In the batting cage, for instance, you can take your cuts against 40 pitchers, ranging from Little Leaguer Froggy, to former Angel Jim Abbott, to Toronto Blue Jay ace Roger Clemens.

The golf shop, which is a Las Vegas Golf franchise, has a simulator with layouts of some of the country's top courses. It's your chance to match drives with Tiger Woods.

The basketball courts--one is kids only--are often used for free-throw contests and some Saturday three-on-three pickup games. There are diagrams on the floor so you can see how your shoe size, and dunking style, measures up to Michael's or Shaq's.

Oshman's, spread over 64,000 square feet, can outfit you for nearly every sport, except hunting, rock climbing, scuba diving and bowling.

The store has an extensive line of fishing gear, balls, bats and exercise and fitness apparel. Of course, for those who prefer something a bit more extreme, such as downhill racing or in-line skating, the sales crew in each department is trained to help you choose the best equipment for your dollar and skill level.

"Our people advise the customer not only on the best equipment, but we also stress safety," Potter said. "If a parent comes in with their child who wants to roller-blade, we would let them know they need to buy the blades two sizes bigger than their shoe size for growing room and support.

"They would also need full protective gear, and that includes a helmet."

course, you'll need money to pay for all that gear.

Oshman's carries merchandise in all price ranges, but sometimes, even their low range isn't low enough.

For serious bargains, the Sports Consignment shop in Costa Mesa is hard to beat. How about golf clubs for $1? Or gym-quality treadmills and cycles for less than a quarter of the retail price? And children's wetsuits for less than $30?

All this and more is available at the shop, which sells used equipment and gear.

Owner Sara Remmey, who opened the store about three years ago, sells used goods for nearly every sport. She decided on a used sporting goods store after seeing all the used Nordic Trak ads in the Penny Saver.

At first, Remmey toyed with the idea of selling only fitness equipment--she's been working out actively for years--but her husband talked her into selling a variety of equipment.

"As long as it looks good and it's in good working condition, I'll take it," said Remmey, who keeps the goods no longer than 90 days. "Things move fast. It's hard to say how long something will stay in the store. Sometimes, I haven't even tagged an item, and someone makes an offer right on the spot. But after the 90 days, if the item is still here, it is either picked up or we donate it to charity."

The most popular items are kids' wet suits, said Remmey, along with other water sports equipment such as surfboards and scuba diving equipment.

The store is a bit low on softball and baseball equipment right now because it's the season. But if you need climbing rocks to practice at home, Remmey's got them, along with treadmills, Nordic Trak machines, Thighmasters, Ping putters and complete sets of Cougar and Callaway golf clubs.

"You just never know what you'll get, everyday it's different," Remmey said. "Once I got nothing all day, then a van shows up with 54 items.

"Usually I am a year behind the latest equipment. When something new comes out, such as Big Bertha clubs, everyone wants the new stuff, so they are ready to trade in their old things."

Steppers are making a comeback, Remmey says, thanks to an endorsement by Oprah Winfrey's trainer. Roller-skates are also enjoying a run too.

Remmey accepts items three ways: A straight sale for cash, on consignment (you get 60% of sale price) or you can trade for equipment in the store.

Not everything in the store is used, however. Remmey also has new equipment from stores that went out of business and samples and overstocked items from sales representatives. All of which keeps the inventory fresh and unique.

Some of the out-of-the-ordinary items include leg stretchers, which are used in karate, jumping shoes to build up your legs to play basketball and a Ma Roller--Remmey is still trying to figure out what it's used for.

Said Remmey: "You never get bored in this business."

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