After twenty-four years in computer sales, Mike Charles walked away six years ago. “My kids got good at sports,” he explains, “and I got tired of missing all their [games].” He cashed out a couple of 401(k)s and used the money to buy a small company that sold sports uniforms to school teams, a job that allowed him to set his own hours. “Now I never miss a game. And that evolved into this.”
“This” is Advantage Sports, a sporting goods and apparel store that opened in late December in the old Big George’s space on West Stadium. It’s owned by Charles, forty-seven, and two partners: Scott Schmunk, forty-five, a former real estate lawyer, and Scott’s brother Jamie Schmunk, forty, a property manager. All three have kids who play on travel teams, which is what inspired them to open Advantage Sports in the first place.
“One day [Mike and I] got to talking about how inconvenient it was to outfit our kids for sports,” Scott Schmunk recalls. “You had to go to Howell or Livonia or Novi to get decent equipment.” Serious young athletes, he says, are looking for a step up from places like MC Sports. “Kids usually start playing on travel teams around age ten, and at that age they’re not playing for school teams,” he says. “When they’re playing at that level they get particular about what they use.”
In addition to high-end equipment for budding stars, Advantage Sports carries equipment for almost every major high school sport, including baseball, football, softball, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, and field hockey. Notable exceptions are swimming (although Schmunk says that’s in the works), golf, and tennis. If your kids are into those sports, he notes, “there are pro shops.”
Advantage has 6,500 square feet devoted to retail and another 6,000 to training, including an artificial turf area where customers can try out athletic shoes, kick a soccer ball, or swing a field hockey stick, and a synthetic ice surface for testing out hockey sticks and ice skates. “We want to be that local sports store where people come in and hang out,” says Charles. “We want to fill that niche in the Ann Arbor area.”
While they’re hanging out, one topic for discussion might be how young people’s experience of sports has changed over the years. “When I grew up, you played baseball in the summer and football in the fall and basketball in the winter,” Schmunk recalls. “Nowadays, you play softball year round, volleyball year round, hockey year round. Kids don’t do as much multiple sports as they used to.” He pauses. “It’s kind of a sad thing, to be honest. I think they became better athletes when they did that. It gave them a chance to make new friends and do different things. I know I enjoyed it when I grew up.”
Advantage Sports, 2019 West Stadium, 369-4944. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m.