Once one of Nike’s top shoe sellers, Steve Warwick prepares to close his Sport Town store as a major Nike store opens

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Steve Warwick recalls the moment Albert Miller walked into his Colfax store in 1972, carrying a briefcase.

“Are you interested in a new shoe line?” Miller asked. At the time, the Sport Shack in Warwick only carried guns, fishing tackle and Wilson Sporting Goods equipment. Of course, Warwick said, he would try.

Soon, Warwick was selling blue and yellow waffle trainers, a simple, sleek shoe with a big swoosh stitched to the side that seemed to scream fast.

Thanks to Miller, who as the company’s top salesman helped make Nike the household name, Warwick became the first store in Washington State to carry the company’s running shoes. Oregon, according to Warwick. Warwick’s business grew and he opened stores in Pullman, Moscow and Spokane Valley.

In 1991 he opened Sport Town on the first floor of the Parkade.

Nike returns to town, and this time Warwick faces a different fate. He was the first to sell Nike in Washington, and now he’s shutting Parkade down for good, thanks to the arrival of a Nike outlet a block away.

“I have no resentment. I have no animosity,” Warwick said. “I think Nike, that store in that building, is going to do a lot of good for downtown. But for me, it’s the last straw. I’m basically getting out of the way.

According to permits filed with the city, a Nike Factory Store will be the primary tenant of the former Macy’s building in downtown Spokane. Work on the interior space of the store is valued at approximately $750,000.

The building’s renovation is being done by Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

Last month, Nike’s job site solicited applications for the store, including head coach, assistant head coach and part-time and full-time athlete positions – the titles of the company for managers and salespeople.

“We look forward to serving consumers with innovative products, services and experiences when Nike Factory Store Spokane opens this summer,” company spokeswoman Grace Chang wrote in an email when told. asked for more details about the store.

Curt Kinghorn, owner of Soul Runners, was more forthcoming. He criticized the city and Centennial Properties for temporarily shutting down Wall Street in front of his business and allowing the building that houses Urban Outfitters to drill nearly 20 feet into the street.

“We are invisible from Main Street. And I don’t know how much we lost in two years of construction,” he said. “I’m sure we’ve lost a few. But we have many loyal people who will come shopping with us.

He said it was “strange to me” that a big business was brought downtown at the expense of local businesses, but “the city in all its infinite wisdom will say what a wonderful job it is doing.”

Although comfortable deploying sarcasm, Kinghorn was serious when he said he didn’t expect Nike to undermine his business because clothes found in an outlet store don’t compare. not to its “superior quality” products.

“It doesn’t really affect me one way or the other,” said Kinghorn, who has run the downtown sportswear store for nearly 20 years. “Fortunately, I am old and about to die.”

Warwick, at 68, was more eager to retire and more optimistic about Nike’s arrival.

He remembers the blue and yellow waffle runners, the innovation of the original Air Force shoes, and the frenzy surrounding the annual release of Air Jordans.

For him, the arrival of Nike is just the latest sign of the collapse of traditional retail in the face of online shopping.

“I’ve been buying and selling Nike products for over 45 years,” he said. “My philosophy was high-end products for high-end customers.”

As more and more merchandise was sold online, Nike began to limit what it allowed stores like Warwick to sell, essentially dictating what Warwick could and could not put on its shelves, did he declare.

“I am an entrepreneur. I started this from scratch. Now they dictate what I can sell,” he said.

But when Warwick closes his store after Hoopfest and before July 4, he won’t be completely out of business. He still lives in Colfax and owns a fitness center and store there called Sport Town. And, of course, he sells products online.

He has no regrets. Except, maybe, one.

“Guys like me have helped build their brand. But things change, things evolve,” he said. “I worked six, seven days a week for 47 years. I did the best I could. I worked my tail. But I would have liked to put my money in Nike shares and not in stocks.

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