Kerry Ryan is defying industry odds.
His independently owned Action Sports in Bakersfield is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Located at 9500 Brimhall Road, Action Sports has not only survived three decades, it has grown to become one of Bakersfield’s iconic retailers of specialty sporting goods.
How has Action Sports survived when many nationwide sporting goods chains have collapsed and other independent stores have fallen victim to the crushing competition of the internet?
“Our biggest focus is on bicycles,” explained Ryan. “We also do a seasonal winter snow ski and snowboard department, swimming, running, rollerblades, rock climbing and outdoor equipment, sunglass/eye protection and sports nutrition.”
Noting that bicycling and snow sports require a high level of expertise and service, Ryan explained: “You can’t easily buy those products online. We are focusing on niches where people can’t trust the internet.
“We do spin and yoga classes. Our rock climbing gym is state of the art. These activities create a nice atmosphere inside the store.”
And then there is Ryan, an ever-present personality who staffs his store with personable and informed specialists. Customers are never strangers when they enter Action Sports, where they are greeted with expert advice and help.
While consumer interest and spending on outdoor sporting goods is booming, we have seen the demise of such retail giants as Sports Authority and a number of closures of family owned sporting goods shops.
In a recent analysis, industry consultant Jon Schallert blamed the closures on retailers becoming “product generalists, rather than product specialists.” Stores that focus on customers and offer specialty products and services survive.
It’s a formula Ryan says is helping him grow his business.
Born in Glendale, Ryan grew up in Bakersfield, attending Nichols Elementary, Chipman Junior High, Highland High School, Bakersfield College, San Diego State University and California State University, Bakersfield.
As a teenager and young adult, he performed professionally as a union drummer, worked for Davies Motorcycle, in maintenance for the Kern River Golf Course, as a Kawasaki mechanic and as a ski tech and manager for Sports Circus. At age 28, he opened Action Sports.
Ryan has never been just a retailer of sporting goods. He has been an active participant in a wide range of sports. He holds the Race Across America four-person speed record — 23.11 mph average speed, no drafting, nonstop five days eight hours, 3,000 miles, 136,000 feet of climbing.
Ryan is joined at Action Sports by Jerry Campbell, a former A-Pro BMX competitor with more than 30 years of wrenching experience, 25 of which have been with Action Sports.
Also on staff and coming from a competitive soccer background, Matt Thiesen offers his expertise in snowboarding and other winter sports.
Ryan opened Action Sports in 1988 in the Town & Country Shopping Center at Gosford Road and Stockdale Highway. The store quickly outgrew its 2,800-square-foot storefront and expanded into 10,000 square feet of the shopping center. In 2007, Ryan opened what he calls his 24,000-square-foot “dream” store on Brimhall Road. He credits his long relationship with Bakersfield-based Mission Bank for helping make his dream come true.
Ryan switched to Mission in 2006 after he said other banks only looked for ways to say no. “Mission Bank said, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’ I always feel they know who they are talking to because they do. It’s like going to the Cheers Bar, where everybody knows your name,” Ryan said.
In a tough business, where competition is not just the guy up the street, but the retailer online and the big box discount stores everywhere, Ryan has learned that he needs to give customers personalized and expert services and specialized quality products.
He said he expects the same from all of his vendors, including his lender. To Ryan, the relationship is very personal.
Maureen Buscher-Dang is the founder of the Bakersfield-based public relations and marketing company Buscher & Associates.