Its a family tradition, and the family is bringing a familiar name in sporting goods back to Blount County.
The Athletic House is reopening a retail presence in Blount County after a 20 year absence. John Cook Jr., Scott Ryan and Scott Elrod told Blount Today they are opening the store at 331 Suite 2 Whitecrest Drive, next to Crest Bowling, on July 20.
The store has a total of 2,000 square feet.
Ryan said Cooks grandfather, Frank Calloway, started the business in 1922.
"Johns grandfather was the first pro baseball player out of UT and played with the Philadelphia Athletics," Ryan said. "He started Athletic House on Gay Street."
Ryan said that years ago Athletic House was where people bought sports gear.
"Thats where I got my first pair of cleats," he said. "It was a big deal to go down to Athletic House."
Cook said Athletic House also had boat dealers like Sea Ray. In addition they sold hunting and fishing gear.
Cook said his father started the State Street location in Knoxville. A handful of stores were in operation throughout the area, but the Maryville store closed in the mid 1980s, and the other stores were separated and sold. The family has kept the team, wholesale and school division going since then at a location on Wray Street in Knoxville, he said.
Ryan said Cook was leading the effort to reopen a retail presence in Maryville. "Its Johns turn, and hes got a lot of fire in his belly," Ryan said. "Part of that was getting Mr. Elrod."
Elrod shared Ryans enthusiasm for the project. "I was very excited because Athletic House has been a name around here," he said. "I grew up around here. I was very excited."
Cook said that currently Maryville is the first retail outlet theyve planned but they couldnt elaborate where or if other locations were planned. "Maryville is the first retail location," Cook said. "Just getting it up and running, thats the main focus."
The trio said their retail outlet will carry such brands as Under Armour, Russell, New Balance, a full line of softball equipment and supplies and many other sports gear. Other brands include Rawlings, Easton, Wilson, Mizuno, Adams and Schutt.
Cook said the companys philosophy of customer service will show through in how they and their employees run the business.
"Bottom line is, its always our customer service," he said. "Our main focus is still the team and the school. Thats what weve always focused on."
Ryan said Athletic House can provide everything from uniforms to balls, scoreboards, field paint, the tape that goes on gym floors, the padding. "Everything that goes into playing a sport" he said.
The whole nine yards," Cook said.
The store also has Lacrosse supplies. They also recently hired sales person who is a cheer and dance teacher. "This is a young lady who just graduated college and who knows and loves (cheerleading)," Cook said. "She does choreography and everything for them."
Cook said a market they also will try to tap into is the corporate market where individual companies hire other companies to embroider shirts.
"Corporate (contract work) is something weve not tapped into," Cook said. "We have just as good or better sources for that type of work," he said.
Elrod said Athletic House will compete with Internet businesses simply because of the good service customers will get.
"The big thing is, a lot of people go to the Internet," he said. "Here weve got a face. You can call us today and tomorrow and get the same person."
Cook agreed. "Were the ones dropping off orders at houses and ball fields," he said. "I cant tell you how many uniforms and bats and balls Ive hauled."
Ryan said customers know the difference. "Its the service that makes the difference," he said.
As word has spread that Athletic House is returning to Blount County, the trio has seen excited former customers. "Everyone I talked to is excited," Ryan said. "Theyve got a memory of Athletic House."
Elrod said he hears from people everyday asking when the store will open. "Theres hardly a day that goes by that I dont run into someone who hears about it," he said. "The enthusiasm is unreal. Everyone knows what it is."
As manager, Elrod said he plans to hire four to five part-time employees and another full-time employee.
"Family means a lot to me, to John and Scott. You see us today, you
can call and see us tomorrow," Elrod said. "Everyone knows what we
stand for. Living in Blount County, thats what people like. They
want to be taken care of, and we will do