by Jeremy Jones
Last week, as I was treating myself to a retail therapy drive-by in the shoe department at an upscale store in Willow Grove Mall, I noticed a young woman seated in the corner trying on high heels. She was clearly suffering symptoms of shopper stress, evidenced by at least six open boxes of shoes strewn at her feet like letters of rejection. As a handsome, well-dressed salesman approached with yet another box of shoes, she asked him the height of the heel on the pair she just put on. “I can take a guess,” he said.
“I have a tape measure!” I offered before there was a meltdown. The salesman bristled but stood by to watch.
As it turns out, the young woman’s anxiety wasn’t born from the typical dilemma of too many choices. She needed a precise 3-inch heel for a very special occasion – her wedding. At the altar she didn’t want to be taller than her fiancé. Heels range from two inches to six inches and it is often difficult to discern a 3-inch heel from a 4-inch heel.
Everything worked out, but it was time for me to go home – home to Chestnut Hill where we think outside the box, the “Big Box,” where we color outside the lines – the waiting lines, and where businesses take pride in their services and trades.
Small but mighty, in a space about the size of an RV, Chestnut Hill Sports scores a perfect 10 for retail performance. In a sense, the shop is an RV – a recreational vehicle for sports enthusiasts, fitness fans, clubs and schools who want the best there is to offer in sportswear, equipment and accessories.
Partners Tom Amodie and George Chiodo have owned and operated this sporting goods store in Chestnut Hill for 26 years, 19 years at the current location, at 8628 Germantown Ave.
Compared to a Walmart’s 260,000 square-foot layout, there isn’t room at Chestnut Hill Sports for all the hype, bells and whistles, (although they do carry coach’s whistles.)
Everything’s right there in front of you; everything swim, everything squash, everything baseball, basketball, lacrosse, football, soccer, running, tennis, paddle ball, pickle ball – and everything priced competitively, including pitch backs, rebounders and goals.
This little engine-that-could also boasts merchandise with brand names equal to the big guys: Speedo, Jansport, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, NFL-brand clothing and, of course, Under Armour. Asics running shoes have just been added to the shop’s line of footwear.
“People come here when they absolutely can’t find it anywhere else. And it’s always a person who lives two blocks away!” said Chiodo. “We have necessities. Other stores have nice things you don’t have to have.”
The shop is one of few in Chestnut Hill to open at 9 a.m., so I stopped by to visit just as they opened, thinking we’d have the place to ourselves. But I forgot about customers on their way to work. By 9:15, it was so busy, yours truly was happy to jump in and show a young man where the bike helmets were. “I remember coming up here from Germantown with my mom when I was little,” he said.
That’s one of the aspects of the business that can’t be overlooked. A lot of kids grew up on Chestnut Hill Sports, and Amodie and Chiodo love that continuing connection.
“At Christmas time, college kids who’ve been coming in since they were little come home and stop by to see us,” said Chiodo.
It means a great deal to the partners and it means a great deal to parents like me, when after all these years Amodie asks after my kids – by name.
“It’s like Christmas every day when the UPS guy comes,” said Chiodo, ever on top of what’s new and in demand. “It keeps me young because we’re always up-to-date with what’s going on, and there are more changes so often.”
“Clothing is more technical now,” said Amodie, who was raised in Chestnut Hill, lives here and has coached baseball and basketball for the Chestnut Hill Youth Sports Club for 34 years.
“There’s more performance wear now,” noted Chiodo. “From cotton to Dry-Fit to polypropylene, every piece of clothing has some kind of performance wicking.”
FYI: Chiodo is a USRSA certified stringer and has been stringing tennis racquets since he was 13 years old. Cost for stringing ranges from $25 to $35.
Also, in addition to top brand-names, Chestnut Hill Sports can help you do a little of your own branding. They embroider and silk screen team uniforms and customized jerseys.
My picks: Women’s Under Armour all-season water resistant hooded soft-shell jacket, $80, and every sports gadget and gizmo in the world make for great stocking stuffers.
When you visit Chestnut Hill Sports you won’t need to bring your tape measure. With retail champions like Amodie and Chiodo, customer service is always tailored to winning dimensions.