A family-owned business that survived threats to its bottom line from Hurricane Andrew and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is celebrating its 48th anniversary this year.
The Miami Lakes Sports Shop has served two generations of athletes by outfitting school teams and Optimist Club leagues as well as adults who needed tennis or soccer or other kinds of gear.
“We’re still hanging on,” said Rosalyn Hamilton, 72, who owns the enterprise with her husband Jim Hamilton, 76.
How have they outlived the challenges to their enterprise?
The oldest retail store in Miami Lakes emphasizes customer service, cut expenses even during good times and set aside money for emergencies, they said.
After Hurricane Andrew destroyed South Florida in 1992, some school sports programs were canceled and it cost the shop 33 percent of its annual revenues in one quarter, Jim
“Hurricane Andrew was the worst economic impact we had ever suffered,” he said.
The store helped FP&L, which needed logos in neon thread sewn onto caps that would identify their freelance linemen to desperate customers.
“That was the only business we had for a month,” Jim Hamilton said.
Another cost-saving move was to rent a smaller storefront along Main Street in 2019, its third location.
During the pandemic, people were afraid to shop and some regular customers who lost jobs weren’t coming in.
The shop received $46,000 through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which enabled them to continue paying salaries for their nine employees (now seven), even when the store was closed for three months during the pandemic.
And in December, the Hamiltons applied for and received a $10,000 federal CARES Act grant administered by the town.
“The PPP and cutting expenses over the years really helped us,” Rosalyn Hamilton said.
So did the resumption of sports programs at schools this fall, Jim Hamilton said.
“[After] football season picked up, a lot of customers came back to us,” he said. “It was just a matter of one sport started back up again to get us through.”
The couple, married since 1970, had other careers – she was a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines, while he sold oil for what is now ExxonMobil.
But in 1973, they launched their retail business with $20,000 in the Cypress Village Shopping Center.
The relatively new town of Miami Lakes didn’t have a store that catered to athletes, Jim Hamilton said.
At first, Miami Lakes Sports Shop sold golf and tennis equipment and later skateboards, rollerblades and hockey skates.
The business expanded with football, baseball and basketball gear and uniforms.
“People would come in and look at different items and requested other items,” he said. “We would write them down and do our best to get it to them.
“The driving force of small businesses is good customer service,” he said. “Without it, you won’t have a small business.”
And it gives discounts to families whose kids play on school or Optimist Club teams, Rosalyn Hamilton said.
The shop partnered in 1974 with Nike, and became a Nike Team Dealer, she said.
“We were a new company and Nike was a new company and we took a risk,” Jim Hamilton said.
“It turned out to be a good investment with the Nike move and good for our business.”
The Hamiltons aren’t looking forward to retirement anytime soon.
With three adult children and nine grandchildren, they may decide to leave the business to whoever wants to take it over when they do eventually retire.
“We’re going to keep going for now,” Rosalyn Hamilton said. “We enjoy doing what we do, like getting the things the customers want.
“And Jim loves going to the schools, talking to the coaches and getting them what they need,” she said.