Wholesale Sporting Goods Calgary
Since 1921 it’s been as much a part of the outdoorsman’s landscape as the Calgary Tower. But, sadly the iconic Calgary retailer Russell’s Sporting Goods will have its doors closed for good on Dec. 28th.
Andy Russell originally opened the beloved store as “Russell Gunsmithing” on 10th Avenue. Together with his son Norm (of Norm’s Ski Hut fame) they began to carry sleeping bags, fishing rods and increasingly more outdoor gear and the name was changed to what we are all familiar with, “Russell’s Sporting Goods”.
The Russell family sold the operation in 1973 to Don Lovo and Ron Smyth who ran it until they too decided to sell it in 1981 to Brian Valde and Daryl Smyth who also own, and will continue to run, Porcupine Creek Supply. Daryl remained the store manager after the pair sold the business to long time rivals Russ & Brad Butler of Wholesale Sports in 2005. The business changed hands one last time when the Butler brothers sold their Wholesale Sports operation to United Farmer’s of Alberta on July 1, 2008.
Russell’s survived the great depression, a World War, several ownership changes and one massive fire in the 1940’s, but, one can only surmise that it was the new competitive environment of the big box retailers in the outdoors sporting goods market that drove the final nail. With UFA investing millions into their Wholesale Sports brand both in Canada and their 15 north west United States stores which were previously Sportsman’s Warehouse locations, perhaps the Russell’s brand became expendable in this new numbers game. “Well it has been very profitable for many years” states former owner Valde. “It’s sad to see it go, for sure.”
Many Calgarians can trace their involvement in the sport back to Russell’s in some way. “My very first bow came from Russell’s over 27 years ago.” claimed one bow hunting customer. “Many Dad’s would bring their son or daughter in for their first fishing rod and years later that same kid would bring their own kids in for some gear.” reported Valde.
Management reports that clearance sales on existing stock will continue until the door closes for the last time on Dec. 28th after which the inventory will transfer over to Wholesale Sports. After 88 years many outdoorsmen & women are stopping in one last time to bid farewell to arguably the last pioneers of outdoor retailers in Calgary, I know I will.
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