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Looking Back at 40 Years of Atkinson Sports Excellence

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Forty years. A milestone to be celebrated.
And, the latest business in town to reach this momentous number is Atkinson Sports Excellence (ASE).
“My son, Colin, had a dream of a sporting goods store, so on July 2, 1978, that dream became a reality as we opened shop at 1316 Main Street,” said Ray Atkinson, noting that this is the current site of BMP Chartered Professional Accountant.
“They tore up Main Street (for repaving) right after we opened so business wasn’t great,” added Ross Atkinson.
Shortly after opening, Atkinsons acquired Action Cycle on Fifth Avenue North.
“Dad had Kelsey Grocers, and Jack Steer had Steer’s Hardware, and they made a deal to swap buildings,” said Ross Atkinson.
This meant that ASE had found their current home at the corner of Fifth and Main.
Colin made a move to Winnipeg, so Ray Atkinson took over and ran the store.
But, tragedy struck on June 5, 1983.
Early in the morning, fire broke out in the living quarters above the store. The store was a loss, and only a short five years into business.
“At that time, dad moved into the Hinchcliffe building (the current location of Simply NU 2 U), and stayed there for three weeks to clear out the inventory we were able to salvage from the fire,” said Ross Atkinson.
“I drew up some plans for the new store, with four other businesses inside and the plan was to have it completed before winter of the same year,” said Ray Atkinson.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on November 17, 1983 for the new mini mall, which included ASE, Pantry and Privy Niche, The Report Book Store, Boot Hill Shoe Repair and the Community Barbershop.
“Albert Outhwaite came on board with us with his shoe repair business, and when we bought him out, he stayed with us and that’s been invaluable,” said Ross Atkinson.
“I bought the business in 1993, and then wouldn’t let dad retire for a while, we just kept things going.
“It’s been fun over the years,” he continued. “You get to meet everybody, and see them grow up and then see their kids grow up too.”
There have been few changes to the building since its opening, first with the bookstore leaving for its new location, then Pantry and Privy, but the Barbershop remains under new ownership, as well as the shoe repair.
“When you talk about business, it’s the staff that keep things going,” said Ray Atkinson. “We’ve always had such excellent staff. I can’t think of one person that wasn’t for us all the time.
“The staff is always helping us. We still have Phyl Friesen. She’s such a pillar of strength to us. She’s family.”
As with any business, customer satisfaction is the main goal of ASE.
“It gives you a good feeling when someone walks out happy,” said Ross Atkinson.
“We try to order in things for customers, like our kayaks and canoes that should be here very soon.”
Over the years, sports needs have changed, but ASE has been there to provide whatever was required.
“Soccer wasn’t really big when we started, but in large demand now,” said Ross Atkinson. “Bicycles have also been key for us, as we also do repairs.
“Fastball was really big, then it died off for a while, and is coming back. But, through it all, hockey has been a key ingredient all winter long, with supplies and skate sharpening.”
Both Atkinsons noted that there wasn’t really one thing the business could rely on, so they continue to bring in new products, while supplying the staples.
Looking back at their 40 years in business brings a smile to the Atkinson faces.
“Back when it started, I didn’t know we’d still be here 40 years later,” said Ray Atkinson. “There was another sporting goods store in town, but we worked hard at building this business and Ross keeps that going.
“Part of what keeps us going and a part of the community is going out and volunteering and being part of community builder events,” Ray continued.
“We used to do sausage breakfasts at 6 a.m., or digging for gold in the street. Sometimes we just have to do goofy things, but it gets people involved and having a good time. These are things you take big pleasure in doing, even though they take work.”
Looking ahead, both father and son feel the business will always be in town, in some form.
“It’s a good business, a solid thing,” said Ross Atkinson. “Every town needs a sporting good store, it’s just a big part of the community.”
“We have to thank our customers and the community for all their support over the years, which has really been excellent,” added Ray Atkinson.
“We’ve gotten involved through old timers hockey and the slow pitch league. These things are fun in sport, and get the community involved.
“We invite everyone out to celebrate with us and visit with Colin and dad, the original owners on Thursday (July 12),” concluded Ross Atkinson.
“At the end of the day, we just appreciate the ongoing and strong community support.”

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Jessica Bergen
REPORTER
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