Sports Basement is getting ready for business in Fountain Valley

The company name may not be as well known in Orange County.

However, the location certainly does.

“All I have to say is, ‘We’re the old Fry’s,'” said Sports Basement Southern California Regional Director Eden Slezin. “And people say, ‘Oh, I know.’

Sports Basement, the sports and outdoor retailer, is set to open its first location in Southern California as the calendar turns to November. A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Thursday.

The Bay Area facility has 11 stores in Northern California, but is now expanding to Fountain Valley, effectively replacing the longtime Fry’s Electronics store that was just off the 405 freeway.

The new Sports Basement in Fountain Valley has taken over the building that housed Fry's Electronics.

The new Sports Basement in Fountain Valley has taken over the 80,000-square-foot building that housed Fry’s Electronics.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Sports Basement Orange County offers a complete ski, snowboard and bicycle shop and matching rentals. The shop owns a state-of-the-art Wintersteiger Mercury ski conditioning machine.

Basketballs, backpacks, gloves and a myriad of other sports equipment for all members of the family were also spotted along the store’s walls during a search last week. The beach part is prominently located in the middle.

There are also couches and chairs where customers can just relax.

“One of our slogans is ‘couch before profit,'” said Slezin, who has been with the company for 16 years. “We like to have these living room-like spaces where you can just relax. We want it to be a very pleasant shopping experience.”

In the back of the 80,000-square-foot warehouse — the only sports basement larger in Redwood City — is a community area with tables and chairs. It can be reserved for free by local businesses, schools and other groups.

There could be a bike meet, a scout meeting or maybe a small screening of a ski film.

Teryn Sain, rental manager, unpacks and sorts snow gloves at the Sports Basement in Fountain Valley on Wednesday.

Teryn Sain, rental manager, unpacks and sorts snow gloves at the Sports Basement in Fountain Valley on Wednesday.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

How will Orange County consumers differ from Bay Area consumers? That’s the question that piques Slezin’s interest as temperatures begin to drop.

“It’s very seasonal up north,” he said. “We’re transitioning into winter and getting rid of a lot of swimwear. Everything becomes colder weather. This is where I think we will have to continue emphasizing summery things in the winter. I can’t imagine not wearing shorts and a t-shirt every day in the middle of winter, but we’ll see. It’s starting to cool down a bit, which I’m enjoying.’

Fry’s Electronics permanently closed all of its stores in February 2021. Slezin said Sports Basement was interested in the large space and had talked about expanding into Southern California over the years.

Many large sporting goods stores have gone out of business in recent years, such as Sports Authority and Sport Chalet. Sports Basement tries to be a kind of one-stop shop.

“We see it all the time,” said Sports Basement senior assistant general manager Yuta Sano. “People say, ‘I came here for football pads for my kids, but now I’m here to buy a bike.’ It’s a great experience. People come back, sometimes every week, just to see what’s going on. There’s a lot of stuff coming in and out, a lot of product moving around all the time… It’s a fun place to be.”

Employee Don Fisher moves a rack of rental snowshoes into the new Sports Basement in Fountain Valley on Wednesday.

Employee Don Fisher moves a rack of rental snowshoes into the new Sports Basement in Fountain Valley on Wednesday.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

That’s the vibe the company wants to portray, along with community engagement through the Basementeer program. Through membership in the program, customers receive a 10% discount on purchases and 10% of the profits go back to a local nonprofit of their choice.

The program usually costs $25 to enter, but registration for the grand opening will be free, said Sports Basement Orange County senior marketer Ryan Broccolo. Last year, the company donated more than $1 million to local schools and charities, Slezin said.

In recent weeks, Broccolo has established a company presence at community events and they are joining a number of schools and beneficiaries.

Sano, who has been with the company for eight years, is a member of the US National Triathlon Team in his age group. At the end of November, he will head to Abu Dhabi for the finals of the World Triathlon Championships.

Before he leaves, he hopes Sports Basement can get a foothold in the area. Also in the works is a ‘Grand Snow-penning’ event on December 3, featuring snow company vendors, food trucks and special giveaways.

“I want to make sure we have the right atmosphere,” Sano said. “It’s a special place in the North Bay for many of our stores and our staff. For a lot of people, it’s like third place. You have a home, a job and a sports basement. Distilling what is really important to Sports Basement and moving it to a new location was an interesting exercise. We want to be open to what Southern California needs and wants. We’re going to find out what we need to adjust and change, and we have to be willing to do that.”

Eden Slezin, center, talks with repair shop manager Rich Koshimizu and employee Don Fisher in the new Sports Basement.

Eden Slezin, center, talks with repair shop manager Rich Koshimizu and employee Don Fisher in the new Sports Basement.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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