As I entered Play it Again Sports for the first time and waited while owner Rick Bauman handled a customer, I wandered toward the bicycle section. As I’m thinking of getting one sometime, my eyes feasted on a couple models. While kibitzing with one of the assistants, I realized the bikes were brand new and not used.
Suddenly, Bauman appeared and shook my hand. We walked to his office and I expressed surprise at seeing new products.
"Probably 30 percent of our sales are used," he said. "If we could get everything we wanted used, that would be great. But the reality is we can sell way more than we can (buy from the public). So we supplement our inventory with new products. Since we’ve been in business so long, we’ve developed relationships with a lot of different vendors, so we can be very competitive on the new items as well. It gives the customers choices; if we have what they want in used, great. If not, no reason to go to another store — hopefully we have what they want new."
Play it Again Sports is a national franchise, and Bauman owns two locations. He opened his Lynnwood store in 1990 and the Woodinville location in 1992. "We tend to be a community, family-oriented store," he said. "We try to cater to all the team sports, as well as bikes and scooters and whatever the community would like us to offer."
If one word sums up Bauman’s business philosophy, it seems to be "flexibility."
"We’re definitely very in tune with what’s going on and what sports are on the rise and what customers want," he said. "We tend to react pretty quickly. For example, lacrosse has grown tremendously in the last few years. We jumped on board right from the beginning. It’s been doubling for us every year for the last four or five years.
"Another example is scooters. It’s an area that’s growing like crazy. A lot of stores think scooters are what kids were doing 10 years ago and that it has gone away. But it’s totally changed. It’s high performance scooters now. And we’re right in the ground floor of that. We’re one of the biggest shops in the country for scooter work."
Having been in business for more than two decades, Bauman’s industry succeeds in booming economic times as well as painful recessions.
"We’ve had very consistent growth from the beginning," he said. "It seems the economy doesn’t affect us as much as maybe other types of shops. A good economy is always the best, of course. But even in a down economy, we seem to do well because we’re a value oriented store."
I referenced again my misconception that they sold nothing but used items.
"For people who have never been in our store before, sometimes they think it’s all old equipment, collector items and novelty or nostalgia type items. We’re usable equipment, current type models. You won’t see 30-year-old baseball bats here; you’ll see one-year- old baseball bats. We’re not going after the collectors, we’re going after people who will use the gear. We’re used, we’re new, we’re service as far as bike and ski tune-ups. We lease ski equipment and do bike rentals as well.
"We just keep expanding," he said. "Whatever it seems like the customers want, we think ‘oh we can do that,’ and we jump into it."