The Soccer Center, a soccer specialty store in operation for almost as long as there has been organized youth soccer in Lexington, announced Tuesday that it will close soon.
Owner Michael Lippert said the move comes after Nike recently revoked his distribution rights as the sports apparel and equipment giant moves more of its product sales to its website and larger retailers.
“Nike was a very, very high percentage of our business,” Lippert said. “The marketplace within itself is very, very competitive, very challenging, and it’s getting more challenging all the time. I just couldn’t replace that amount of revenue for the store to remain viable.”
The store, at 451 South Ashland Avenue, outfitted a number of local club or “select” soccer teams and some high school teams with uniforms and practice gear, as well as balls, cleats and other equipment.
Lippert bought the Ashland Avenue store in 2006, leaving his sales education job at Lexmark and ending his run as the girls soccer coach at Lafayette High School to take on the venture.
The Soccer Center opened in 1982 on Clay Avenue, owned by a pair of Transylvania University soccer coaches, Parviz Zartoshty and Charles Spiegel, who both coached Pioneers teams in the 1980s and ’90s. Zartoshty has long been director of coaching for Lexington F.C., which has more than 900 players from ages 8 to 18. The Lexington Football Club has been a Nike club for more than two years and was a major part of Lippert’s business. LFC is a part of the Lexington Youth Soccer Association.
“I remember the days we closed during winter time and put a note (on the door) that if you need something, just call us,” Zartoshty said. “We went from those days to (being) open all 12 months.”
The hardest part of seeing the business he founded close, Zartoshty said, is its effect on Lippert and his family.
“I feel for him,” Zartoshty said. “He’s a good guy. He loves soccer. … and he loved having that store. When he bought it, he always told me that was his dream.”
Lippert has never had more than two employees, handling all the orders and ironing on all the patches and numbers himself most of the time. He’s offering huge discounts until the inventory is gone.
“It’s been great, and I’ve cultivated a tremendous amount of relationships over the years,” he said. “While I can’t say that it’s been fun all the time — it’s a challenge to own your own business — it’s been rewarding.”