The store, which opens today at 8 a.m., will also be hosting a three-day grand opening celebration beginning Friday, April 25.
Inviting the Boys & Girls Club to the store for an early shopping event is a tradition of sorts for new locations, said Store Director Laura Lamoree.
“It’s normal for us. We try to ... because we are family-oriented and we try to make sure that the whole family knows that we’re here in the community and we can service everybody. We know that children have a hard time and like the stuff when they come in our stores. They love the stuff they see, right? They come in and they go and they play on the fitness area and ride the bikes, that kind of thing,” she said. “For us it’s a good way to introduce yourself into the community and let you know that the company cares about family.
“So the best way to care about family is to take care of kids, especially children who maybe haven’t had that experience to just go ahead and shop. So we give them that opportunity to say, ‘You have some money; go and shop and buy what you want.’”
Following a ribbon cutting in front of the store, Academy associates greeted the 30 Boys & Girls Club members with loud cheers when they came through the door. Associates then handed each club member their gift card and walked with them through the store. Lamoree said every club member had a store associate who acted like a personal shopper and guided them through the aisles of products.
“Our philosophy, basically, is we’re family-friendly and we are a family. It’s what we talk about in our stores to our teams. We don’t talk so much about you’re the associate and I’m the employer. We talk about we’re family. So when we come into the community we want to be known as family-friendly because that’s how we look at ourselves inside the store,” Lamoree said.
Gordon Gilley, chief professional officer for Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, thanked Academy for selecting his organization.
“And, of course, we said, first of all, thanks for thinking of us. Second, welcome to Cartersville, we’re thrilled to have you, and then, finally, when they told us the amount per child — honestly, what a generous gift,” he said.
Fifteen children were selected from the club’s Cartersville location and another 15 from the Adairsville location. Selecting which club members would receive a gift card was a “tough decision,” Gilley said.
“That has been the No. 1 question I’ve received, and rightfully so. We have great kids. All our kids are good. All our kids work hard. But the selection process was based on participation. Youth of the Month went right up toward the top if they’ve been a Youth of the Month in the last 12 months. Since we have two clubs here, we had 15 at each club and they were gracious enough to let us use both clubs,” Gilley continued. “Every kid you see in here, regardless, you see not only the gender but the ages are different. Every one of them are very deserving.”
As the club’s members selected items from the racks of apparel, footballs, baseball bats, running shoes and hundreds of other items, Gilley was beginning to look ahead to how Academy could become more involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County.
“So Academy, very, very gracious and most importantly, long-term is what they want — to have an ongoing relationship. Talk about win-win, particularly as we look for funding and building new clubs and equipping clubs,” he said. “ [Club members] were humbled and/or so excited they couldn’t stand it. Honestly, you saw it, they were very appreciative too.”
Lamoree said the Cartersville store now employs 157 associates, a number that will change with the seasonal hiring surges. Before today’s opening, she continued, she heard from people in the community asking when the store was going to open and that her associates were receiving the same question when they wore their Academy shirts in public.
“My expectation is just that everybody’s going to come in here and they’re going to feel good about it and keep shopping. That’s my expectation, is that Cartersville will say, ‘We love Academy and they love us and we’re going to shop there,’” Lamoree said.
Although each store is arranged in a uniform manner, the product mix does vary somewhat from market to market depending on needs.
“[We are a] general sports retailer. If I, [as] a shopper — we’re known for footwear. ... One of the things that I kind of pointed out when I went to corporate is our need to make sure that we had work footwear because of all the plants ... that are around here, and they seem to have done a great job making sure that I am stocked. ... I told them, ‘The community needs this, so just make sure that we have it,’” Lamoree said.
While the first of the club’s members began checking out, Gilley reiterated how thankful they were.
“We’re excited not only to have this relationship, but appreciative as well. That’s the key, is let them know how appreciative they are that they thought of us and that our kids are deserving and will appreciate everything they do,” he said.