PEQUOT LAKES -- A sale started Thursday at Oasis Sport Shop and this time everything will go.
After seven years of catering to lakes area sportsmen, Tom and Theresa Ryan are closing the store. It's bad news for travelers who remembered on the way north some item they left at home. The Oasis' closing will leave a void in the chain of sporting goods stores along Highway 371.
The final sale will continue until the last pair of socks are sold. Then the lights will be turned off, the doors locked and the Oasis Sport Shop will vanish into history.
When news of the closing spread many people speculated it was brought on by the opening of Reed's Sporting Goods in Baxter. The Ryans say that isn't so.
"We've competed with Reed's since the beginning," said Tom, referring to Reed's parent store in Walker. "Their coming to Baxter didn't have that big an effect. Of course, you can't ignore a 900-pound gorilla when it moves in next door, but we could compete. It wasn't the deciding factor."
Oasis Sport Shop owners Theresa and Tom Ryan worked behind the gun counter Friday at the store in Pequot Lakes. The sporting goods store will close its doors after selling off current stock. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
Rather, the deciding factor was the lack of time they spent with their kids -- Kevin, 12; Mike, 9; Katie, 7; and Shawn, 3. Tom said he took them fishing once all summer. Throw in the two times they went last summer and that's three times in two years -- not what the Ryans envisioned when they opened for business in John Lueck's strip mall in 1997.
At the time, Tom and Theresa were certified public accountants looking for a new start in the north country. Their love for hunting and fishing made owning a sporting goods store a natural. But working hours are long for people who own a business and off-hours are long for people who have four kids.
Yet the Ryans stuck with their plan and business was good. On March 31, 2001, they opened a new 6,000-square foot store next to the strip mall. The new store was twice the size of the old store, a former auto shop with two truck bays and a car wash.
"It was great when the bait tanks overflowed, but everything else leaned," Tom joked at the time.
Then came the events of Sept. 11 and the Ryans and retailers nationwide saw business go flat. It slowly recovered, Theresa said, but not to pre-Sept. 11 levels.
Meanwhile, the Ryans wondered what effect their long hours at the store was having on the kids.
"The customers want to see Tom behind the counter," Theresa said. "On the other hand, he wanted to be at the kids' baseball games now and then. There just wasn't a good balance anymore."
So a family meeting was called and it was decided to close the store. Selling it as-is would take six months to a year, Tom said, and he didn't believe he could find a buyer who would be willing to invest the time and money to make it work.
The Ryans' home will remain in Pequot Lakes, where the kids attend school and Tom is running for city council. Theresa has a new job as chief financial officer at Mann Lake Ltd. in Hackensack. Tom will take the fall off and contemplate his next move in a duck blind in North Dakota.
"We're so grateful to all the customers who supported us," Theresa said. "They could have bought their sporting goods anywhere, but they bought from us and got to know us and became our friends. That's the part that tugs at your heart."
Four employees who would be an asset to any business are for hire, Theresa added. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5862.
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