Sport Chalet

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Sport Chalet
Private - Vestis Retail Group
Industry Retail
Fate Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Founded 1959
Defunct 2016
Headquarters La Cañada, California
Number of locations
47 at closure[1]
Key people
Norbert Olberz, founder
Products Apparel, Sports Equipment, Shoes, Snowsports, Team Sports, Climbing
Website (Redirects to Eastern Mountain Sports website)

Sport Chalet was a sporting goods chain with 47 stores in Southern & Northern California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.[1] Most stores were over 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2) in size, with many including dive pools and offering SCUBA classes. Sport Chalet stores usually featured large apparel and footwear departments complemented by an array of specialized departments and sections. On April 16, 2016, the company announced that it would close all stores in the coming months and that all online sales had already stopped. The last stores closed in June 2016.[2]


Sport Chalet was founded on April 1, 1959 by Norbert Olberz and his wife Irene, who bought a ski and tennis shop in La Cañada Flintridge, California. To initially stock the store with ski gear, the couple took out a $5,000 loan and borrowed money from a relative and some employees.[3]

Early on, Sport Chalet stocked products that few other stores sold, such as scuba and mountain-climbing gear. When surfing became popular in the early 1960s, the store began carrying longboards and wetsuits.[3]

Sport Chalet grew piecemeal in La Cañada along Foothill Boulevard. Olberz converted a former grocery store into a full-line sporting goods store and an old furniture store became the ski shop. He also converted a gas station into a ski rental shop and opened a golf store down the street.[3] Sport Chalet's location is about one block southeast of the intersection with Angeles Crest Highway, a major route into the San Gabriel Mountains.

The company opened its second store in 1981 in Huntington Beach, CA. By the mid-1980s, the company expanded to have stores throughout Southern California.[3]

Sport Chalet started being traded publicly on the NASDAQ exchange in 1992.

In 1997 Craig Levra came on board as president, and in 1999 took over as CEO.[4]

Norbert Olberz died in La Cañada Flintridge on July 15, 2011.[5] He was survived by his wife Irene.

In 2014 Sport Chalet was sold to Vestis Retail Group for $17M, as well as absorbing its current $50M in debts. Vestis is owned by the private equity firm Versa Capital Management.[6]

On April 16, 2016, Sport Chalet announced that all stores will close, with May 15[7] being the last day for customers to use gift cards and store credits, and that online merchandise sales had already been stopped.[8] Subsequently, Vestis Retail Group, which owns the Eastern Mountain Sports and Bob's Stores sporting goods chains as well as Sport Chalet, announced it had filed for bankruptcy protection and reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.[9][10]

Corporate Environment[edit]

Sport Chalet's claim was to pride itself by employing well trained and knowledgeable employees who had extensive knowledge and/or experience in their respective departments, leading to one of the companies slogans 'The Experts'. Sport Chalet was one of the few major sporting goods retailers to focus on a broad array of more specialized sports, including kayaking, SCUBA diving, mountain climbing, canyoneering, and other extreme sports. Sport Chalet additionally used the slogan "We'll Take You to The Limit".

In 1998, Olberz gave $1.5 million in stock to 109 employees who had been with the company for at least 10 years.[3]

The company was the title sponsor of the "U.S.B.A. California Regional Tour." The tour was a collection of three events that were sanctioned by the United States Bodyboarding Association, that took place at different Southern California beaches - events ran between June 7, 2008 and November 9, 2008.

Following the January, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Sport Chalet, in conjunction with Soles 4 Souls, began accepting donations of gently worn shoes at all their locations until January 31, 2010. They collected almost 1 million pairs of shoes in 2 weeks.


External links[edit]