PORT HARDY—For more than 20 years, Jim Henschke and Nita Klatt have repeatedly expanded their shop space and product offerings at Jim’s Hardy Sports.
Now, it’s time to downsize.
Henschke and Klatt have Port Hardy’s landmark sporting goods store on the market, and hope to be able to sell the 3,000-square foot business located in Thunderbird Mall. Whether it sells or not, however, their ownership will end when 2013 ends.
“We’re staying on the North Island,” said Klatt. “But either someone else buys it, we run out of stock, or we lock the door on Dec. 31.”
The couple plans to open, beginning next spring, a seasonal bait and tackle shop across Hardy Bay, at the boat launch on property owned by the District of Port Hardy. Henschke will continue to operate his fishing charter business, Castle Point Charters.
“We’re just going to start over again,” said Klatt. “We’re pretty excited.”
Henschke and Klatt got their start in sporting goods in 1991, when they purchase the small store located on Market Street in the location currently occupied by Masterman’s Appliances. Originally a 500-square foot store, it was doubled to 1,000 square feet three years later when the dry cleaning business located behind their space closed and they moved into that space.
Two years later, in 1996 they spread into another, adjacent space in the building to create a 1,500-square foot store and, in 2000, moved into the mall and their current, 3,000-sf space.
“When we bought the store neither one of us had ever owned a business,” said Henschke. “They had a small sports shop in town and we said, ‘Why don’t we buy that and grow it?’”
The growth was not linear. Two years after they opened, the Utah Copper mine that had sustained much of Port Hardy’s economic development closed. One year later, a week after Henschke invested $40,000 in coho salmon fishing gear, Fisheries and Oceans Canada closed down the coho fishery due to declining stocks.
“We thought life had ended,” Henschke said. “But we just hung in there. The whole town stuck together, we supported each other, and we got through it.”
Not everybody got through it, of course. Businesses have come and gone at Thunderbird Mall, which still has several vacancies. And Port Hardy’s other mall is virtually devoid of retail sales outlets, with the courthouse, North Island College and the Return-it Centre as tenants along with Hardy Buoys Smoked Seafood, a commercial fish processor with a small on-site storefront.
But Henschke’s and Klatt’s decision to sell now is not based on a lack of business. While there have been the highs and lows common to any small-town business, Henschke notes “sales have been good for the past several years,” with timber and tourism making comebacks since the economic crash of 2008.
“We have people from all over the world come in here that are amazed how much we have,” said Henschke.
The couple says they’re even willing to stay on and manage the store initially for a new owner — “It’s negotiable,” says Henschke — but they’re firm on their decision that the time is right to move along.
“We’re hoping somebody will take it over,” he said. “We’ve had some interest, but we haven’t gotten the right people yet.”