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Family-owned Blythe's Athletics is growing despite Dick's competition

Jason Dudley, store manager for 23 years at Blythe's Athletics in Valparaiso, stands next to Mike Blythe, the owner for 43 years. The family-owned athletic store is growing. 

 

Blythe's Athletics in Valparaiso grew revenue by double digits last year despite the addition of a new Dick's Sporting Goods a mile down the road.

The sporting goods store at 2810 Calumet Ave. sells sports equipment and shoes, and specializes in furnishing custom team uniforms in bulk. It split off from Blythe's Sports Shops 13 years ago, and remains owned by the Blythe family while the Blythe gun shops in Griffith and Valparaiso were recently sold to a new owner after 65 years.

Blythe's Athletics owner and operator Mike Blythe said business has quadrupled since the athletic department was spun off as a separate business.

"We split the gun business from the high school sports and athletic equipment business," he said. "We felt they were different types of businesses and weren't mixing. They didn't blend that well."

Blythe's Athletics, which employs nearly 40 people, supplies uniforms for many area high schools such as Valparaiso, Portage, Chesterton, LaPorte and Hobart, as well as Valparaiso University, Calumet College of St Joseph and Ancilla College. It also recently lined up some business with Notre Dame.

"We're a pretty good-sized outfit," Blythe said. "We do all the screenprinting, embroidery and sewing ourselves."

It provides spirit wear, football helmets and pads, and trophies for athletes of all ages. The retail store is also one of the largest Adidas suppliers in the state of Indiana, furnishing athletes with cleats for sports like soccer and baseball.

The business has its own arts department with graphic designers who design jerseys for football, baseball, basketball and wrestling, from Little League to college.

"The school business is huge," Blythe said. "Dick's doesn't do and can't do what we do. There you just shop the rack. We custom-make everything for our customers."

Blythe's Athletics is looking to grow by expanding its sales team and online presence, though it is not looking toward any aggressive expansion, Blythe said. Though its core business remains in Porter, LaPorte and Lake counties, it has expanded its customer base into the Illinois south suburbs and south toward Lafayette in recent years.

Blythe said his store may have lost a few sales on baseball gear when the new Dick's moved in a year ago, but was nonetheless able to grow its business because of its niche. 

"We're for the athletes," he said. "Since we're family-owned, we can react and make decisions, like changing the price for 100 T-shirts. The Blythe family has a good reputation, and is staying family-owned."

For more information, visit www.teamblythes.com or call (219) 462-4412.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.