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When you think of golf hot spots, New England doesn’t immediately jump out. Sure there are many revered courses, but considering that it can get pretty cold and snowy during the winter, it’s not exactly Hawaii, Florida or Southern California.
But that didn’t stop Mark Blair from opening a golf retail store in 1983 called Golfers’ Warehouse. Over the years, the chain expanded and now serves five cities in southern New England. It’s been part of the Worldwide Golf Shops chain of retail stores since 2009. “It was really the early years of golf retail,” says Mike Britt, who began working for Golfers’ Warehouse in 1990 and is today the Northeast Regional Manager for Worldwide Golf Shops. “There may have been some small local shops around, and other areas like Southern California had Roger Dunn, but there weren’t the proliferation of big chains like today. So Mark got into it very early and it worked.”
The first store opened in Hartford, Conn., and has over the years expanded from 7,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet. From the very beginning, the focus was on an interactive experience. “The biggest thing for us in those days was the hitting bays,” Britt said. “People always wanted to try our products inside and I think that was what made us stand out. Most shops were lucky to have one hitting bay with one net, but our stores had six to eight bays. Golfers appreciated being able to hit clubs on the spot.”
Unlike golf retail companies in sunnier parts of the country, Golfers’ Warehouse operates with a seasonal mind set. “We’re open all year round,even when there’s snow on the ground and courses are closed,” Britt said. Store traffic in the winter consists primarily of people gearing up to travel to warmer destinations andpeople who want to come in and hit a few balls. But when the snow melts and the sun returns, there’s a huge rush. “Once April and May roll around,our business ramps up a lot,” Britt said. “Our customers will come into the store chomping at the bit because most of them haven’t played in a few months, and they’re hungry.”
Becoming a part of Worldwide Golf Shops was an easy transition, Britt said, as he and his colleagues were familiar with the company. “I think we were pretty comfortable that things wouldn’t change drastically because we knew their way of doing things,” he said. “We were confident they would add to us and still let us be ourselves.” Britt says employees were also very excited about the addition of Worldwide Golf’s 90-day, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, which they hadn’t been able to offer before without the proper infrastructure. “We quickly found our philosophy was the same as Worldwide Golf’s to offer professional club fitting and repair, but also to make sure the customer walks out with the club that fits them best.”