When it opened in 1977, East End Sporting Goods was one of the first stores of its kind in the area. Steve King, then a full-time high school teacher, had a passion and an idea to start something new on the North Fork. Business has certainly changed through the years, expanding to meet tourism trends and needs of local clients.
The Main Road store is now a go-to source for custom apparel and logo products, while remaining strong in its roots of recreational sporting gear. We found out more about this family business, where King said everyone strives to provide the best customer service possible and build lasting customer relationships.
Q: What sparked your interest in starting this kind of business?
A: There was a need for it at the time. We started on Love Lane. There was nothing out here at all, nothing in Riverhead or online. We did what you couldn’t do today. We started in a little store, stocked some sneakers and, when we could and were lucky enough, we moved and grew from there in a natural progression.
Q: Was this always your full-time job?
A: No, I taught school the entire time. I taught business at Miller Place High School for 34 years. I would come back and work the store after school hours.
Q: Your wife works alongside you here and you have a son. Does he help out at the store too?
A: Yes. My wife, Jean, and my son, Steve, both work with me here. Our employees are like family, too. It is a family-based business. My son has brought a modern aspect and new ideas to the table, which is necessary now with online shopping trends.
Q: Are you noticing trends in local business? How did you decide to shift to offering custom products from solely sporting apparel?
A: Things have changed. We can’t sell sneakers anymore. There used to be 120 pairs of sneakers on the wall. We don’t sell them because everyone buys those online now. Other than summertime, the majority of what we do is custom. We either embroider it, silkscreen it or engrave it. During the window of the summer months, we get busy with sales and rentals in the area of water sports such as paddleboards, kayaks and tubes. It’s not retail as it was. It’s a sports and lifestyle store now that expands with the peak season, while remaining centered on custom apparel and branded materials.
Q: Do you find that providing a more personal customer service experience helps most to keep repeat business and loyalty, more than simply offering the best price?
A: No matter what business you are in, there is always someone cheaper. You’ve got to be competitive. We are well aware of what everyone is charging. The way we separate ourselves is by offering as much service as we can. For us that’s always been a big thing. For example, we offer comparable pricing on a paddleboard and then we deliver it, set it up and so on. The same goes for custom products. This is how we gain loyalty from our customers and how we survive here year round, through our service.
Q: What are your favorite things to do on the North Fork when you’re not at the store?
A: We live in Mattituck. By far, summer is our favorite time on the North Fork. We enjoy water sports, such as boating and paddle boarding. We also have kayaks in the backyard. We have very busy schedules in the summer, but that’s how we unwind.
East End Sporting Goods is located at 11500 Route 25, Mattituck. (631)298-4552, eastendsportinggoods.com.
Top photo: Steve King. (Credit: Vera Chinese)
This story was originally published in the 2017 edition of the Times Review Media Group Business Magazine