OGDEN — One of Ogden’s longest-standing and most recognizable businesses has closed its doors, but you haven’t exactly seen the last of it.
Kent’s Sports Store closed Aug. 18, though owner Jeff Spencer has been at the store regularly since then — cleaning up, assisting the random customer, moving merchandise and tending to whatever other odd duty that might come up during the closure process.
“We’ve technically been closed for more than a month now,” Spencer said Thursday morning at the store. “But I’m still here all the time. And as long as I’m here, I’m happy to help people.”
The outdoor recreation and sporting goods store has stood at its prominent west Washington Boulevard location (just south of the Five Points area) for 55 years.
The business was founded by Spencer’s grandfather, Kent Stanger, in 1949. The original store existed on Washington at 9th Street, later moving to 15th and Washington, back to 9th Street and finally landing at 307 Washington in 1963.
Spencer began working at the store in 1976 as a teenager, sweeping the floors. He and his uncle Randy Stanger purchased the business in 1989, partners until the latter’s death in December.
Kent’s was most known for selling firearms, bicycles, barbecue equipment and all the supplies that when along with them. Spencer said one of the store’s area of emphasis was carrying items that couldn’t be found elsewhere.
“We always stocked the odd and weird stuff — the stuff you can’t find in other places,” he said.
Spencer said the store has remained financially successful over the years and the closing isn’t related to the passing of his uncle and business partner.
“It’s just time,” he said. “My uncle and I had always kind of agreed that when he turned 65, we’d both retire. And I have a son that worked for me for a number of years, but he just didn’t want to be working six days a week and I support him in that. When it comes to small businesses, you don’t really own a business — it owns you. If you want to be successful, you’ve got to be there.”
That belief was drilled into Spencer at a young age, as he watched his grandpa run the store. He credits Kent and his wife Evona for the store’s longevity. When Stanger first opened the store, he did so with two other partners, but Spencer said they both left soon after the opening.
“He kept plugging and plugging, lived on rice and beans for a long time and worked six days a week, holidays,” Spencer said. “I can still remember him down here doing the books on holidays.”
Since announcing the closure, Spencer said he’s heard from a lot of disappointed regulars. His customer base included families that have shopped at the store for five generations. He sold bikes to certain customers’ kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
“That’s weighed heavily on me in making the decision to close the store,” he said. “The fact that we were going to leave a lot of good friends high and dry.”
Though Kent’s as it has existed for the past nearly 70 years is gone for good, there is a twist.
Spencer said he plans to open another store, at the same familiar location, selling only Browning gun safes and pellet grills. The hours will be limited and some merchandise will likely be sold by appointment only, but Spencer says he’ll be back in the store.
“It’s going to be something that allows me to work far fewer hours, hopefully something that frees up my weekends,” he said. He plans to open the new establishment before the year is out.
“I need to get through the hunting seasons — I’m looking forward to doing some hunting this fall,” he said. “It’s very hard to hunt and be in this business because you have to be here to supply everyone else. But after that, I think we’ll be back at it. I’m not really the guy that can quit and go away, retire and sit in front of the TV.”