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St. Croix Sports: full-service pride; home-grown connections

Swinging for the fences: Co-owner Sean Coffey practices with a softball bat outside St. Croix Sports’ new store front on Webster Street. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Chuck Nowlen)1 / 2
Hockey is a year-round sport in Hudson, and St. Croix Sports offers an array of services, including skate sharpening –- demonstrated by co-owner Sean Coffey -– and test skating on a synthetic-ice shooting lane. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Chuck Nowlen)2 / 2

By Chuck Nowlen

About 4,000 kids play youth-league baseball, softball, hockey, soccer and lacrosse in sports-mad Hudson, and championships are piling up at the middle school and high school too.

Yet there hasn’t been a locally connected, full-service sporting goods store in town for years.

That’ll all change big-time April 25 when local youth-league coaches Sean Coffey and Ryan Bullis open St. Croix Sports at 1830 Webster Street –- about a mile from Hudson’s two indoor hockey rinks, no less.

“I used to have to drive 30 minutes just to get my skates sharpened,” Coffey recalled at the store’s 2,500-square-foot facility, which includes, among many other things, a synthetic-ice hockey shooting lane -- complete with boards, nets, Plexiglas and banners – so youngsters can try out new equipment before they take it home.

A full line of baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse products is also featured, including “Hudson Spiritwear” items. Skate-sharpening and other services too.

“Ryan and I were having coffee last November, talking about, ‘Where do you go to get good sports equipment in Hudson?’” Coffey said.

“Where do you go for shoes, skates, sticks, bats, gloves, apparel and everything else you need? Where do you go for really great customer service? Where do you go for expertise and experience? And, on top of all that, where do you go for a strong connection to the community?

“Then we said to ourselves, ‘This is something we can do.’”

Former A-1 Archery site

St. Croix Sports is in the onetime home of A-1 Archery, which has since moved a few miles east, just off Interstate 94. Coffey and Bullis know A-1 owner Dan Ellyson well, but that’s just the tip of their local roots.

“Our goal is not just to sell equipment and services. We want to reach out to all of the communities in the area and bring all of the kids, the parents and (youth sports) associations in,” Coffey explained.

“Ryan and I see it all first-hand as coaches, and it really comes down to having a passion to do this. So we’ll be able to get anybody anything they could possibly want. If someone has a broken skate, we’ll fix it. We’ll size people correctly and make buying equipment affordable, which is important because a lot of it can be pretty expensive.”

Coffey, who works nights as a police officer in Oakdale, and Bullis, who works days “in the corporate business world” at Target, will also bring a parent’s experience to the store.

Coffey’s young triplets, two girls and a boy, are already all too familiar with local youth-league sports. So are Bullis’ three sons.

Good stress

As you might expect, getting the store ready for its grand opening was a bit of a nonstop fire drill over the last few months, but Coffey says it’s all been a labor of love.

“Law enforcement can be very stressful. Same with working for a large corporation,” Coffey explained. “But the store is different for both of us. It’s a good kind of stress.”

Even putting together St. Croix Sports’ business plan was fun, if time-consuming, he added –- especially when it got unanimous thumbs-up reviews from the accountant, the attorney, the local business owners and, of course, the bankers they ran it by before launch.

“They said it was a very detailed and organized plan,” Coffey said. “We had someone say it was even more detailed than a business plan for doctor’s office, which was very good to hear. We knew then that we were doing something right.”

Both men give a lot of credit to their wives and kids for their support during all the 15-hour days spent working on the store when Coffey and Bullis had time off from their other jobs.

“My wife Kim and Ryan’s wife Heidi have been two of the most understanding people in the world,” Coffey said. “They’ve been working just as hard as we are.”

That makes Coffey and Bullis even more determined to make it all worthwhile in the end.

“Growing up, I remember going to the same sporting goods store every year, year after year,” Coffee explained. “And that’s the kind of store we want to be. We want kids to start coming in when they’re 4 and 5 years old and keep coming in all the way up –- all the way until they can bring their own kids in someday.”