LA CANADA, CA-Sport Chalet has come a long way since founder and chairman emeritus Norbert Olberz bought a small ski and tennis shop here 45 years ago and expanded it into a chain of 31 sporting goods superstores, and now the chain has a game plan for going even farther. Sport Chalet, which remained primarily in Southern California throughout most of its expansion, recently opened its first Central California store in Visalia, an opening that followed by one week the debut of a new location in the Northern California community of Elk Grove.

The Elk Grove and Visalia stores, both more than 42,000 sf, represent some of the latest moves in Sport Chalet’s plan to grow in other parts of the state besides Southern California as well as other states. In addition to Elk Grove and Visalia, as part of its fiscal 2005 expansion the company has opened a new store in the Sacramento area community of Roseville, plus one in Pleasonton in the East Bay area near San Francisco, as well as another Southern California location at the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia.

The Visalia and Elk Grove openings follow five other expansions in the past several quarters by the company, which ends its fiscal year on March 31. “Our growth strategy had historically focused on Southern California, but now includes opening new stores throughout California and Nevada as suitable locations are found,” the chain said in a recent SEC filing. Sport Chalet already has two stores in Las Vegas and also has said it plans to move into Arizona. The Arizona expansion will kick off with an initial opening of four locations in the Phoenix area in fiscal 2005-2006.

With the opening of the five new stores in fiscal 2005, Sport Chalet will set a company record for new store growth in one year. Along with the expansion, its plans call for retrofitting and remodeling four stores during fiscal 2005 to conform to the Sport Chalet format that has evolved over the years, which is a location of 40,000 to 45,000 sf that showcases each product category with the feel of a specialty shop. The 2005 retrofits will follow what were the first two full-scale remodels of older stores, the Marina del Rey and West Hills locations in Southern California.

The new Elk Grove and Visalia stores both feature on-site SCUBA training pools, one of the additions the chain has made as it expands the services it offers in addition to selling sports gear and supplies. The company retail locations now offer more than 40 services that range from backpacking, canyoneering and kayaking instruction to custom golf club fitting and repair, ski rental and repair, SCUBA training and certification, racquet stringing and bicycle tune-up and repair. Offering the services continues the a strategy the company has followed throughout its history. It aims to distinguish itself from discount and department stores, traditional and specialty sporting goods stores by focusing on services and higher-end specialty merchandise that requires higher levels of customer service and expertise on the part of sales people than is typically the case with other retailers. With its expansion outside of its traditional Southern California marketplace, the company is hoping that approach will play in other parts of the state and the West.

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