Sports Basement Through The Years
Back when Sports Basement first opened its doors, cell phones were still giant plastic bricks and photos were still developed on film. Our first store ran on Windows 95 and our signs were all drawn by hand (actually, we still draw a lot of our signs by hand - I guess not everything has to change)! The dot-com boom was starting to bust, and Tom, Eric and Dave, friends since 1st grade, just wanted to get outdoors without paying an arm and a leg. They banded together to create something weird and new - a sporting goods store that catered to everyone that wanted to enjoy the outdoors, with no high-cost barrier to entry. The whole idea was to work with the smallest margins possible so Sports Basement could have the best brands at, well, Basement prices. It worked, and now Sports Basement is able to deliver great gear at great prices at 10 different stores in the greatest place on Earth (that's the Bay Area, in case you weren't sure). We're so thankful that you, dear reader, are a part of our community!
Pre Sports Basement
It all started with Tom, Eric, Dave and Marin (not pictured) way back in 1998 on top of Mt. Rainier...
November 27, 1998
We opened the Mission Bay store. It was our first official location and we were only open Friday-Sunday, and we cut costs everywhere we could - we made all our fixtures from found materials, painted our own signs, and Tom scoured the streets in his pickup looking for secondhand couches to clean up and use. We've kept up that tradition - we still make all our fixtures from scratch, and you'll still find comfy couches in all our stores!
Since we were at the store working every day, we decided to open 7 days a week - pretty wild, right?
Our staff took part in what would become a yearly tradition - attending and hosting a booth at the Wildflower Triathlon! We call it Camp Wildflower, 'cause it's basically summer camp for Sports Basement staffers.
We took part in our first ever AIDS/LifeCycle ride! And we didn't just ride with them - we went all in and sent our mechanics along to provide their valuable services along the ride - and we've kept on wrenchin' for ALC every year since.
We outgrew our Mission Bay store and had a stroke of luck when the old commissary store (that's military for "grocery store") became available in the Presidio. We threw out a bid for it right under the wire, and to our surprise, we got it! We kept a lot of the signs up - that's why you can still see the Bakery and Fish sections at our Presidio store. The Presidio remains our oldest operational store, and is the home base for our President (that's Eric up there) as well as Tom!
The South Bay kept catching our eye, so three years later we extended ourselves down Hwy 101 and opened up our Sunnyvale store in what had been a Fry's Electronics. If you look carefully, you can still find some weird little touches from those days, like the bits of floor painted to look like a circuit board.
We stepped it up a notch when we decided to journey across the Bay Bridge to the East Bay just a year later! Our Walnut Creek store is small but mighty, and is literally filled to the rafters with good gear and good people.
July 1st, 2007
Back in SF, we acquired the former Hamm's brewery right at Bryant St. & 15th. It took a ton of work (manufacturing plants have very little in common with retail stores), but we managed to open that very same year.
After years of staring longingly at the Pruneyard Shopping Center in Campbell, we finally got a chance to put down roots there. Fun fact - part of that store's footprint used to be a video store (videos are these black plastic boxes that we used to watch movies on before Netflix). We still show plenty of movies, so the legacy lives on!
We're exceptionally proud of our second East Bay location - Berkeley's Iceland! The once-glorious Iceland ice rink had been in a sad state of disrepair for years and years before we managed to convince the city that we'd be able to repair it while keeping its heritage intact. Signage describing the original ice rink are posted throughout the store, and we refurbished the scoreboard and kept the original Iceland sign, which is mounted behind our front registers. The rest of the store is unchanged from its ice rink days (minus the ice) and yes, it can get kinda cold in there! If you have a very keen eye, you might be able to find some ice skates and other accessories that we recovered and built into our fixtures at the store!
After a bit of a bumpy start, our newly formed ecommerce department launches our new and improved sportsbasement.com. We think it's pretty cool, and we're not just saying that 'cause you're browsing it right now.
Our Basementeer program, one of our proudest achievements, was launched in 2016! Since our founding we'd always worked hard to incorporate community partners like schools and local charities into our business model, with the thought that the more you shop, the more we're able to give. Our Basementeer program took that concept and ran with it! Basementeers get 10% off all of their purchases, and we donate 10% of profits to their choice of one of the 1,200+ charities or school we're partnered with.
We hosted our very first Basement Basement Sale (that's deals even lower than what you'd find at the Basement - hence, the Basement Basement) at our Bryant Street store. 30 people were lined up at 6am and over 400 people were lined up by 7am! Our Basement Basement Sales take returned and slightly damaged items that can't be sold in our stores like new, marks them down up to 90%, and gets them into your hands!
We decided to delve deeper into the East Bay and found an old hardware store that was just begging to be turned into something special. With its location butting right up against the Iron Horse Trail, it was truly meant to be, and our San Ramon General Manager uses the Iron Horse Trail to bike to work every day!
We'd put down roots in the South Bay, and we'd delved deep into the East Bay, but we'd never been able to find the perfect North Bay spot... until 2017! We opened our Santa Rosa store in July, right near the Costco.
Sadly, a few months later the Sonoma County Fires threatened our communities. We were fortunate to be able to offer up our store as a safe space for first responders to rest up and revitalize themselves, and we provided them with at-cost gear while our customers all over the Bay Area joined our efforts to collect donations and gift cards for victims. We are incredibly proud to be part of such a resilient and strong community.
About six months later, we found the perfect place to call home in Novato! Considering how much we all enjoy biking over the Golden Gate and hanging out in Marin County, this was a dream come true for all of us. We managed to open the Novato store in record time.
After sponsoring and participating in races for almost 20 years, we decided it was finally time we hosted our own. Our first annual Halloween 5K presented by Sports Basement raised over $100,000 for The Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco!
We celebrated our 20th birthday! Thanks to our amazing customers, staff, and community we raised our glasses (and our beers cans) to 20 years of proudly serving the Bay Area.
Our 10th and largest store yet opened in late November, and is hosted biggest Grand Snowpening ever on December 1 & 2.
February 6, 2019
Our first Powder Bus took off to Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows to take advantage of some of the freshest pow we've ever skiied on.
July 27, 2019
Our first-ever Russian River Bus left our Presidio, Bryant St., and Novato stores to well, the Russian River. We gave riders a free round-trip lift to and from the river for a day of floating, paddling, and even some beer-sipping.
We donated to over 1,400 local schools and charities thanks to our Basementeers! We've raised over $10 million since our humble beginnings in 1998 all thanks to our amazing customers.
Like the rest of the world, Sports Basement underwent many serious changes when COVID-19 hit. For the safety of our staff and our communities, and for the first time in our history, we closed all our stores for nearly 2 months. When we finally reopened, we did so with industry-leading safety procedures that put us head and shoulders above our competitors. Our work paid off - as of this update, we have had zero COVID-19 outbreaks company-wide, and have developed several new ways of connecting with and serving our communities during these unprecedented times.
With the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the Black Lives Matter protests taking place in our Bay Area communities and throughout the world, we realized it was time to take a hard look at our own diversity and inclusion practices. We created an internal Diversity Quorum made up of staffers of all levels, and launched Outdoors Together, a publicly accessible view into the work we're doing to support BIPOC non-profits in the Bay Area, improve our internal processes, create new programs and offerings, and work to push the whole outdoor industry towards inclusion.
As if 2020 wasn't difficult enough, in August several complex wildfires ringed the entire Bay Area, burning for over a month. 2020 marked California's worst wildfire season in modern history; many, many homes were destroyed and far too many lives were taken. One of our General Managers, Rich De Borba, was evacuated from his Boulder Creek home, and wrote about his experiences on our website. The outpouring of support he received from our community was astounding and inspiring, and reminded us why we love the Bay Area so much.
and on we go...
In the end, not all that much has changed at Sports Basement. We still strive to sell the best brands at Basement prices. We still keep the focus on our local communities, and are constantly looking for more ways to help. We still make all our own fixtures, and hand-draw as many signs as we can. You'll still find comfy couches in all our stores. And you'll still see Tom and Eric working on the sales floor.
Monique Uhlberg says...
What a great article on your years in service! I was actually one of your very, very, very early customers who was referred by a friend’s friend (Jay) who gave me a little paper discount card to use to shop in your Mission Bay store. I am an avid SB patron. I tell everyone that your store is like Gucci to me. Congratulations on such a successful business model and thank you for everything you do in the community. All the best to you and your staff and Happy Holidays!On December 28, 2020