Bob McArthur has been working at Johnny Mac’s Sporting Goods for almost his entire life. When he was 10 years old, he and his brothers were engraving trophies at the store opened by their father, John McArthur, in 1967; by the time he was old enough to drive, he was running deliveries all across St. Louis.
“We would cut through the backyard to go to school, and we would come home, and our mom would have a message there saying, 'Eat this sandwich, and when you're finished, come on up to work,'” McArthur, now the president of Johnny Mac’s, told host Don Marsh on St. Louis on the Air Friday.
Johnny Mac’s recently announced that it was being acquired by a Texas-based company and will be closing all of its retail locations, including five in St. Louis. McArthur said that the decision to sell the company was largely motivated by difficulties competing with large national retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and direct online retail from suppliers like Nike.
While walk-in retail once made up almost half of the company’s revenue along with supplying high schools and other sports teams, that percentage slowly declined over the past few years.
“That's what allowed us to get to where we are today,” McArthur said. “The team business and the school business and the retail customer all together made it work.”
McArthur said that he understands why people are attracted to the convenience and price of online retail, but added that he hopes people understand how where they spend their money affects local businesses.
“A lot of people, if they're really honest with themselves can really think about … that percentage of business they're not giving to the local store or business person makes a difference as to whether it's profitable or not,” he said.
Johnny Mac’s retail locations will liquidate their remaining items over the next 90 days, after which BSN Sports will take over and the business will fully shift to supplying teams and schools.
McArthur said that the time since deciding to close down has been bittersweet, as people have come into the store or stopped him on the street to tell him how much they will miss Johnny Mac’s.
“I was stopped by a coach from St. Mary's High School, who was 83 years of age, who reminisced and brought a tear to his eye saying, 'I remember when your father started this, and your mother and all of the boys and sons who have worked in the business all these years,’” he said. “It's a difficult time.”
Listen to the full interview:
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Jon Lewis give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.