by Barney Quick
In the midst of Nashville’s shops and galleries offering fine art, popular art, and every conceivable craft being plied in the Midwest, there is a store devoted to the sports fan’s fealty to his favorite athlete or team. “Men walk in here with their wives or girlfriends and say, ‘Finally! A guy’s store!’” says Bill Kantz, proprietor of Sports Etcetera.
Lest you think sports merchandise is primarily tee shirts and sweatshirts, it would behoove you to take a look around Kantz’s emporium. You can get door chimes that play your team’s fight song, mouse pads with stately photographs of venerated stadiums, and dog leashes and collars displaying your team’s logo. To instill your young ones with team pride while still in the crib, there are mobiles. In fact, the traditional active wear only accounts for about thirty percent of Sports Etcetera’s business.
Kantz says that the fact that so much of his traffic is comprised of tourists helps a lot. “I don’t know if I could have the same impact if I were in one team’s local market exclusively,” he says, noting that people from, say, Miami, love to see something like a Dolphins novelty that reminds them of home. He also notes that international customers are keen to take an artifact of American popular culture home, even if they’re not familiar with specific teams. He has quite a few such sales, observing that “not a week goes by that I don’t see somebody from another country. That a little town in southern Indiana would have such a broad visitation base is incredible to me.”
He generally finds his vendors at trade shows. For many years, Atlanta was the location for the industry’s big events. Now they’re held in Las Vegas. Kantz says that it’s nice to get away and see old business friends, but that the pace of a day at a trade show is actually quite rigorous. In a field in which imaginative design and marketing minds are constantly spurring new trends, he has to visit as many booths as possible to stay abreast of it all.
A lot of moments of humor and touching human drama take place on the sales floor at Sports Etcera. Kantz, whose speech patterns instantly identify him as an east-coast native, once spied someone coming in the door in full New York Yankee regalia. He kiddingly told the visitor that he was in Brooklyn Dodgers territory and that there was a dress code, which started their encounter with some laughter. One time Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark was in the store, keeping a low profile and browsing the racks. A pregnant woman was buying some toddler’s clothes bearing the Colts logo. Clark signed her merchandise, much to her delight. Sometimes fans of different NASCAR drivers engage in lively banter across the store.
Children know Sports Etcetera as the home of Buck the Deer Head, a life-size replica of a hunting trophy that talks to the small folk with the aid of Kantz and a special microphone. Buck is prominently placed near the front of the store and gets frequent requests to socialize.
One new product that is taking off for Kantz is a line of framed pictures showing the evolution of a team’s uniform over the years, often going back to the nineteenth century. Some teams represented in this line are Notre Dame and the University of Miami.
Kantz purchased the store in 1995—it had been in existence since 1973. His retail background had included a clothing store in Bloomington. After that period of his life, he hiked the Appalachian trail and then concluded that “I wanted to be right here.”
Sports Etcetera, located at 415 S. Van Buren Street in Nashville’s Heritage Mall, is open from March through December and its hours are 10:00 to 5:00 Sunday through Friday and 10:00 to 7:00 on Saturday. The store’s website is <www.browncountysports.com>. It can be contacted at (812) 988-6809 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.