Sweeney’s Sports, a familiar business among Napa’s outdoorsmen and women, continues to grow more than 45 years after its beginning.
Don Sweeney started his sports store on Lincoln Avenue across from Napa High School in 1970. In 1984, Mike Sweeney took over from his dad, and in 1997 the store moved to its current location in River Park Shopping Center.
Current owners Kevin and Lynn Ryan acquired the store in 2004, keeping the long-established name, and in 2012 the Ryans took over the adjoining gun shop.
The store recently celebrated the completion of a 1,300-square-foot expansion, bringing the total space to 4,500 square feet, by hosting a customer appreciation day, featuring no sales tax and savings on selected items, along with raffle prizes and barbecue.
Sweeney’s isn’t about those “11 o’clock news” sports, football, baseball or basketball, but the sports with the oldest pedigree, the ones that were once necessary survival skills: hunting and fishing.
More than 37 million U.S. residents over the age of 16 went fishing and/or hunting in 2011 and spent nearly $90 billion, almost half that total for equipment, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Census Bureau.
The two pillars of the business are different from a revenue standpoint, according to store manager Chad Hole.
Although it’s a big revenue generator, hunting, like team sports, is seasonal with different times of year for hunting water fowl, turkey and deer. Fishing, on the other hand, goes on year-round, Hole said, with lots of nearby locations including the Napa River and Lake Berryessa. Sturgeon may be biting in the river while bass are all but leaping into the boat up at the lake. The store’s website fishing report keeps anglers updated on conditions around the region.
But another hunting-related activity is on the upswing, according to co-owner Lynn Ryan.
“Archery is up and coming,” said Ryan. “Many colleges are teaching it. St. Mary’s (where her son is in his junior year) has a club.”
“Archery has been on the rise,” he said. “The movie industry has helped with that.”
Hole, a Pope Valley native who is an archer as well as a hunter and fisherman, cited recent popular features such as “The Hunger Games” trilogy and “Brave” as contributing to the surge in popularity of the sport. A quick stroll through the archery section shows a bow for “youth archery” for under $70.
Sweeney’s carries traditional bows as well as the more high-tech compound bows, which use cams, pulleys and cables to make the bow easier to draw and to improve the arrow’s speed and accuracy. Modern bows are made of lightweight, strong materials such as carbon, magnesium and aluminum.
Ryan said the store expansion is due to optimism about the future.
“We’re excited about the shopping center and the new landlord,” she said.
The majority of the River Park Shopping Center was purchased by Best Development of Sacramento in 2014. The center has been undergoing a makeover, including new tenants, construction, additional parking, new landscaping, demolition and repainting.
Ryan said she believes the success of her business is due to customer service with a personal touch. The employees are all fans of the sports the store is built on, she said.
“All the guys and girls who work here do it for a living; they do it because they love it,” Ryan said.
Sweeney’s Sports is located at 1537 West Imola Ave. in Napa. The website is SweeneysSports.com.
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