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In Red’s spirit sons run Weir Athletic Supplies

In Red’s spirit sons run Weir Athletic Supplies

Mike and Rusty Weir

From the early days, back when the Daniel Boone Little League was in its infancy and Dan Devine was bringing the Tigers football team into the national rankings, Dorothy Weir knew their sporting goods store was going to be a family affair.

She and her husband, Red Weir, were running the store they later handed on to sons Mike and Rusty. “I remember taking Mike to the store when he was little. I found him one day sleeping on a bin of baseball bats,” she said.

Mike Weir, president of Red Weir Athletic Supply, added: “We’re selling to third generation (Columbia) family members now.”

From left, Mike and Rusty Weir organize custom shirt orders at their store in the Crossroads Shopping Center

Changing with the times, in terms of technology and equipment upgrades, but remaining true to the principles of hard work and customer service laid down by Harold “Red” Weir, the family has operated a successful small business for nearly 50 years.

Red, who died in 1991, is legendary in sporting circles throughout Missouri. Originally a high school coach and teacher, Red realized after the birth of his first son, Mike, that raising a family was going to require more than his meager teaching salary provided.

He began working for a sporting goods store, learning the business, and, two years later, moving from Eldon to Columbia, where he opened Red Weir Athletic Supply in 1961.

The original store, located on Broadway, next to Buchroeder’s, was one of the first full-service athletic supply stores in Columbia. The inventory included shoes, equipment and clothing for baseball, basketball, track and football enthusiasts, in addition to a full line of custom order trophies and uniforms.

Ron Brown works on special orders in the awards and incentives department of Red Weir

Dorothy still works part-time at the store, although Mike and his brother, Rusty Weir, shoulder most of the day-to-day responsibilities of the business.

Rusty is vice-president of Red Weir Athletic Supply. “I’m primarily responsible for the inside sales at the store and Mike works with schools and institutions,” Rusty said.

Ron Brown assembles a trophy

Early on, Red cultivated relationships with associations, leagues, high school athletic programs and parks and recreation teams. Selling uniforms, equipment and awards to the various sporting entities is the cornerstone of Red Weir’s business.

“Our service area is roughly a 75-mile circle around Columbia,” Mike said, adding that big box athletic supply stores like MC Sports or the soon-to-be-opened Dick’s Sporting Goods don’t significantly impact Red Weir. “They’re in the retail business; we’re in the team business,” he said.

The Weirs moved from the downtown location to Crossroads Shopping Center on West Broadway in 1978, when the city of Columbia decided to put in the infamous “loop” around East Broadway. “It was already a hassle to load and unload deliveries and then when the city put in the loop, there was no customer parking,” Mike said.

About the time the downtown loop was completed, a store location at Crossroads became available when the Adidas shoe outlet, Achille’s Heel, went out of business. Dorothy remembers a banker calling Red and asking him if he’d be willing to rent the location. “I thought I might be able to retire when we moved out here, as we were eliminating a lot of the clothing,” she said. That was not the case.

Ron Brown assembles a trophy

Throughout Red Weir’s 47-year history, the family has also owned or co-owned other athletic stores in Missouri. Capital City Sports in Jefferson City, Campus Sports on the University campus and Raytown Sports were all formerly owned and operated by the Weirs.

According to Mike, the reasons for closing or selling the other stores were varied. “We opened Campus Sports in 1978 and ran it five years,” he said. The store was located across from Jesse Hall, in a short strip of retail stores, including Campus Jewelers and Aardvark’s.

“All the stores had to relocate when the leases expired and the buildings were torn down for construction on the new alumni center,” Rusty said.

Although only open for five years, Campus Sports launched a new service for Red Weir. “We were among the first to do screen printing for sororities and fraternities,” Dorothy said. Later, the Weirs added custom order embroidery, as well.

“That’s probably what’s been the biggest change,” Mike said. “Screen printing and engraving have come along way since being computerized. Back then, we were one of only a few companies to hand engrave awards and screen print T-shirts.”

Mike has always worked for Red Weir, but Rusty worked for more than a decade for Coca-Cola, working his way up from truck route driver to sales. “When Dad died in 1991, I came back to work here,” Rusty said.

The brothers not only followed in their father’s footsteps in business, they also followed his passion for officiating. Red officiated high school and small college football, basketball, track and baseball for 40 years.

“In those days, it wasn’t as highly structured,” Mike said, recalling a time when Red and two of his officiating buddies had to serve as pall bearers for a funeral, then head straight to Westminster College in Fulton to umpire a baseball game. “They worked the whole game in their suits and ties,” Mike said.

Currently, Mike is an NFL official and Rusty just retired from 31 years of officiating, most recently as a Big 12 football official. Between the two, they have more than 65 years of officiating experience from little league to pro sports.

“It’s fun and good money,” Rusty said, “and when I was single, I really didn’t mind it. Mike agrees. “It’s a good second income, and it teaches you responsibility,” he added.

Red’s legacy also includes induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, the Central Methodist Hall of Fame and the National High School Basketball Federation Hall of Fame. Professionally, Red served as the national director of the Sporting Good Dealers Association.

Dorothy points to his contributions to Mid-Missouri youth organizations as among Red’s greatest achievements. “Red, along with about a dozen others, was responsible for establishing the Daniel Boone Little League,” Dorothy said. In addition, Red is largely credited with creating the Show-Me Show Down basketball tournament and instrumental in the early days of the Diamond Council.

Today, Red Weir Athletic Supply is a perennial partner in education for the Columbia Public Schools and sponsors numerous local youth teams, Show Me State teams and tournaments. The Red Weir Post 202 American Legion team is the premier non-school competitive baseball team and a frequent subject of local sports writers. Nearly every local youth athletic association lists the Red Weir store as a location to pick up applications, schedules and information.

In addition to the 3,500-square foot retail store at Crossroads, Red Weir has an off-site 10,000-square-foot warehouse. They employ eight people, aside from family members that work there.

Dorothy credits the success of the family business to Red’s eternal optimism. “Red was always optimistic, and even when he was very ill, he was optimistic. He worked, and he was good at it.”

Asked about the future of Red Weir, Mike said, “I know we’re going to make it to 50 years; beyond that, I’m not sure.”

Red Weir Athletic Supplies
Crossroads West Shopping Center
2101 W. Broadway
445-4931

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