Local stores offer gift options for sports fans on your listWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Shopping for the sports fans on one’s list can be intimidating, especially when they’ve already got about 14 Ohio State pint glasses, a Wolverine foam claw or a Browns snack bowl helmet in their collections.
Fortunately, the Toledo area is full of local retailers offering a slew of gifts for whatever kind of sports fanatic you are shopping for. Here’s a look at a few of the locally owned options:
Bucks, Blue and more
Since opening this summer, The Buckeye Store and More has made a name for itself in the collegiate sports apparel and merchandise arena. Located in the Starlite Plaza on Monroe Street in Sylvania, the store not only has the largest (12 feet tall) inflatable Brutus the Buckeye in the state, it’s got one of the largest collections of all things scarlet and gray one will find in the region. Although merchandise from The Ohio State University makes up 60 percent of its sales, fans of other universities in the region are sure to find something to their liking as well. The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Notre Dame, University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University are also well-represented, with products also available from more distant teams such as Wisconsin, Iowa and Purdue.
“Our reversible jackets have been real hot,” said co-owner Jim Damschroder, who is partners with Jim Steeg, former director of special events for the NFL and Michael Wells, former all-Big Ten quarterback at the University of Illinois and former quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals. “They’re wool/leather on one side and nylon on the inside, and you reverse them in inclement weather.” The coats retail for $99.95.
One thing setting The Buckeye Store and More apart from other outlets is its unique licensing agreement with OSU, which allows the store to offer clothing products not found elsewhere.
“I hold 18 different product licenses with Ohio State myself, and they’re all apparel,” Damschroder said. Unique clothing options found at the store include team-themed blazers, khakis, golf shirts, dress shirts — even Hawaiian-style shirts.
Fans looking for that special something for the Buckeye fan who bleeds scarlet and gray will also find an 8-foot inflatable Brutus ($119); clock saying “Time to beat Michigan” ($25.99); OSU shower curtain rings ($21.99); flip-flops ($19.98); fight song buttons ($16) and chocolates ($9.95).
Shoppers looking for Wolverine items need not be scared away from entering the store with their arch rival’s mascot overhead, however. This is where the “and More” part of the store’s name comes into play.
University of Michigan logos adorn dozens of items in the store, including glass lamps, clocks, dog food and water bowls, playing cards, fight song buttons, napkins, sippy cups and plenty more.
The Buckeye Store and More’s holiday hours are: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The store is located at 5700 Monroe St., Sylvania, (419) 517-7097.
Walleye and Mud Hens
There’s an easy way for Craig Katz to tell that he’s doing his job as director of merchandise and licensing for the Toledo Walleye and Toledo Mud Hens.
Merchandise sales of both teams’ apparel ranks in the top five of their respective leagues. Historically, the Mud Hens have been among the most sought after teams when it comes to minor league baseball gear. Last year, in the team’s inaugural season on the ice, the Walleye logo was featured on more purchased apparel than any other team in the ECHL.
This year looks to be a repeat performance of the past, according to Katz. Business is solid at both Swamp Shop stores, located in both the Huntington Center and Fifth Third Field.
“Walleye jerseys and anything with the brand Under Armor for the Walleye, Mud Hens hooded sweatshirts and retro apparel for the Mud Hens has sold really well so far,” Katz said. “We have hundreds of different styles of T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and things like that, and we do consistently keep things fresh here. What you saw here last Christmas is definitely not what you see here this Christmas.”
This holiday season, the ice portion of the Swamp Shop is bogged down with plenty of replica Walleye jerseys in a variety of colors ($105.95), hoodies ($59.95) and T-shirts ($18.95). Smaller gift items include Walleye baseball hat ($18.95), navy Walleye pint glass ($9.95), black Walleye mug ($9.95) or gift cards in an amount of your choice.
Mud Hens gift options include a track jacket ($69.95), a variety of hoodies ($69.95) and the famous T-logo baseball cap ($19.95). For a stocking stuffer, throw in a Fifth Third Field coffee mug ($7.95).
Merchandise for both teams is available at the websites www.mudhens.com and www.toledowalleye.com.
To add to the holiday spirit this season, the clubs are offering a couple of special Christmas events for fans at the Huntington Center Swamp Shop. From 6-8 p.m. Dec. 15, Walleye players will be providing free gift wrapping for shoppers, in addition to posing for photographs and signing autographs. From noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 18, the teams’ mascots, Spike and Muddy, will be acting out holiday stories for young fans.
Swamp Shop (1-800-736-9520) hours at both locations through Dec. 23 are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
One of the best-kept sports memorabilia secrets in the area might be located down in Bowling Green at the Sports Zone, tucked away in the Woodland Mall on State Route 25 at the north end of the college town.
There, owner Rick Schmidt boasts one of the largest collections of unique sports items for the sports nut on your list, no matter where his team loyalty lies. Need a Tampa Bay Buccaneers glow pen? Sports Zone has you covered. A Chicago Blackhawks gnome figurine? Check. A Philadelphia 76ers “fans only” parking sign? Look no further. An Ohio State cornhole set? Of course.
Sports Zone is a man cave nirvana of sorts, with more than 10,000 different sports items packed into one retail space, with entire aisles devoted to the most popular teams, making the shopping experience a lot less frustrating and time-consuming. NFL, NCAA, MLB, NBA and NHL teams are each well-represented with a slew of items the sports fanatic on your list is not likely to have seen elsewhere.
“With the exception of clothing — there’s very little wearable material at Sports Zone — I have more items here than any store within a 100-mile radius,” Schmidt said, looking around one of his store’s two rooms. “Where else are you going to find a neon Saints sign in this state?”
By far, his most popular team for merchandise is the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a large section at the front of the store dedicated to the team with six Super Bowl championships. Couches, recliners, pint glasses, clocks, toothbrushes, pencils, keychains, dining plates, shot glasses, vintage metal beverage cans and an assortment of signs all adorn the famous three-star design of the team that made Pittsburgh famous.
“I’ve had people tell me that I have items they can’t even find in Pittsburgh,” said Schmidt, who relies on his relationships with more than 50 suppliers to find the thousands of “sports décor” items that pack Sports Zone.
Because rent at the off-the-beaten-path location is cheaper than at other retail outlets, Schmidt is able to afford to keep larger items that other stores are not able to house.
Full couches ($599), futons ($399), coffee tables and end tables ($250 for a set of three pieces), neon signs ($295), and recliners ($550) are among the larger items Schmidt has available, often at prices lower than shoppers will find on www.nflshop.com or eBay.
Schmidt will also seek items he does not have in stock for customers and does offer shipping if needed.
Sports Zone (419-353-2710) is located in the Woodland Mall, 1234 Main St., Bowling Green. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.