The Triangle is home to N.C. State, UNC and Duke, but Dennis Ryan knows there’s a bigger sports world out there.
Ryan owns Game Day Sports Outlet in the Falls Village Shopping Center on Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh. He opened the store in a different location in 2012, figuring there was an under-served market for fans beyond local college sports.
“They either carry UNC, State and Duke, and they’re finished,” Ryan said of many local sports stores. “Carolina Panthers and Hurricanes in hockey, and that’s it.”
Ryan’s store carries gear for those teams and more.
“We cater to all the local teams, but the strength of our store is we cover national teams and teams around the country,” he said.
Game Day Sports features merchandise for 90 teams. The store carries men’s, women’s and children’s apparel. If you want a team sweater for your Pekingese, you can find that, too.
There are hats and shirts and jerseys, but also sports cards, iPhone covers, the sports equivalent of action figures and really more stuff than I could list without running out of space.
Ryan came to the belief that this kind of store would work through experience. He’s spent decades in the sales business, first buying the kind of apparel he now stocks for retailers like Roses discount store, and then later as an independent sales representative working with teams across the country to sell their products.
Around the nation, he saw the same thing. In each state, the big stores catered mainly to regional teams and skipped the broad appeal that he now tries to embrace.
He also noticed that stores weren’t big on stocking for women, something he was quick to change.
“I sell actually as much if not more women’s than men’s T-shirts,” he said.
The store started on Creedmoor Road at Stonehenge shopping center, but Ryan moved to Falls Village in February.
That moves, as it turns out, wasn’t a great idea.
“I pretty much thought you just keep all your customers, and you add new ones,” he said. “That didn’t really happen the way I wanted. I lost a lot of customers.”
Before Game Day Sports moved for good, both stores were open during the Christmas shopping season last year. Ryan found that having two stores for Christmas was a boon. So this year, he’s opening a holiday shop in Leesville Town Centre on Leesville Road.
“It’s the best time of the year; those two months are where all the sales are,” he said.
Of course, Ryan is a sports fan, but don’t expect him to wear team jerseys. He doesn’t like to take sides, just in case a particularly rabid fan comes in and takes issue with his allegiance.
“I don’t don’t want to be sitting here wearing a Cowboys jersey,” he said. “We stay neutral.”