The sports giant’s return is part of a flurry of activity on Main Street
Baker City’s Main Street is a hive of business activity, with the first shipment of Nike running shoes arriving at Kicks Sports Wear, a local boy making good as the new owner of Flagstaff Sports, new owners renovating the former Mad Matilda’s building to start a bakery, and a flurry of activity in Baker Tower.
Billy Hermann, an employee at Kicks Sports Wear, said it was a thrill unpacking the first 60 boxes of Nike women’s running shoes that arrived shortly before noon Monday.
Ryan Chaves, who owns Kicks Sports Wear with his wife, Kaylin, said it took almost two years of negotiations to convince Nike officials to approve a retail outlet in Baker City’s downtown historic district.
Typically, Nike requires a company to show it can sell a minimum of $1 million a year in Nike shoes, apparel and other items as a prerequisite for being awarded a retail sales agreement with the company.Under that policy, Nike products have gravitated over the last 15 to 20 years to chain stores usually located in shopping centers and strip malls.
But Ryan Chaves said his agreement with Nike appears to reflect a changing philosophy where the Oregon-based company is returning back to its roots somewhat and taking a second look at rural towns.
“There’s no way we could meet that million-dollar minimum buy-in, but we were able to convince the Nike folks that Baker City is a regional hub where people will drive in from the outlying communities to buy Nike products,” Chaves said.
Nike shoes haven’t been available in Baker City for several years.
When the first shipment arrived Monday morning, Hermann pulled a pair of black and pink Nike Air Max shoes out of one of the bright orange boxes featuring the famous Nike swoosh in white. He smiled when he saw the word “Nike” printed in pink on the right sole, and the words “Just do it” on the left sole.
On Tuesday, Herman said another 30 boxes of Nike women’s running shoes arrived; the first shipment of men’s running shoes are scheduled to arrive today.
“Our first order was for $13,000, and that’s just for running shoes,” Hermann said.
Chaves said his strategy is to stock running shoes in the $50 to $80 price range this summer, and to add soccer, football and volleyball gear in the fall, followed by basketball shoes for the winter sports season.
Chaves said he also plans to stock Nike products featuring emblems of the Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers and Boise State Broncos.
Chaves said customers will also have the opportunity to special order Nike shoes and other products featuring other teams or athletes contracted by Nike.
“I’ve already had some customers coming in asking if we can order certain styles of Nike shoes,” Hermann said. “People know Nike is a brand that is quality. It’s definitely a plus that Nike started out in Oregon.”
A few blocks north on Main Street at Flagstaff Sports, the new owner, 24-year-old Jared Johnson, was busy Tuesday repairing a 1940s or 1950s vintage Schwinn Cruiser bicycle.
“It’s a sweet bike,” said Johnson, who also sells new Electra cruisers, which he said are kind of a retro version of the antique Schwinn bikes.
Johnson worked at Flagstaff Sports for three years prior to purchasing the business and all of the inventory July 10.
Flagstaff is in the Basche-Sage Mall, 2101 Main St.
For Johnson, a 2004 graduate of Baker High School, owning a sports store that sells bikes and biking apparel, as well as snowboarding, skiing and other sporting equipment is a dream come true.
“It’s just what I’ve always wanted to do,” Johnson said. “When I was 8 years old I started coming around here in the mornings, and I’d hang around until they kicked me out.”
In high school Johnson built his own bikes from parts. After graduating from high school he worked as a roofer, and off and on at Flagstaff Sports, honing his bike, ski and snowboard setup and repair skills, along with his customer service and business skills.
His bike inventory includes a broad range of styles from Specialized, Giant and Electra.
When the seasons change, Johnson said he’ll be pushing skis and snowboards.
“We will hopefully be reviving the ski aspect of the store,” Johnson said. “We’ll be selling skies, snowboards and apparel, and we’re the only business in town that does the maintenance part of it,” Johnson said.
A demolition crew was busy Tuesday tearing away layers of plaster and paint to expose the rustic brick walls inside the former Mad Matilda’s building, 1917 Main St., which Paul and Barbara McNeil are remodeling this summer.
The couple plan to open a combination bakery, coffee shop and take-out cafe in October.
“We are going to stay in the tradition of a bakery that Ann and Andrew Bryan did,” said Barbara McNeil, who bought the building and moved to Baker City from Portland, where she and her husband operated a wholesale bakery.
“Ann and Andrew were so well admired for what they did, we hope to create the same kind of loyal following, and build on that,” McNeil said.
Inside the building, workers Dillon DeLong, 17, and Luke Buehler, with Rafter M Construction, hammered, pried, chipped and shoveled plasterboard off the old brick walls.
Wood panels and a display area inside the front door have also been removed to let in more light and give the interior a more open look, said Paul McNeil, who has worked as a chef and baker, and owned his own bakery in Portland for many years.
“We hope it is going to be a friendly, comfortable, nice place for people to be and visit with friends,” he said.
Care At Home in Baker Tower
Besides the multimillion-dollar data center expansion taking place on the third floor of the Baker Tower, there’s a new business that opened in July on the ground floor called Care At Home.
Jan Ebell and her puppy Aspen, a 9-week-old yellow Lab, run the office for Care At Home.
“We do everything from skilled nursing, physical therapy and speech therapy to trimming diabetics’ toenails, cooking, laundry and mopping the floors,” Ebell said. “We can do pretty much anything that anybody wants.”
She said Care At Home was founded in 1993 and was operating established branches in Payette, Caldwell and Council, Idaho before opening its fourth branch in the Baker Tower building.
The building, formerly known as Hotel Baker, is the 10-story stone structure at the northwest corner of Auburn and Main.
Jenny Mowe-Joseph, a former Powers High and University of Oregon basketball star who also played for the Portland Fire in the Womens National Basketball Association and now coaches at Baker High School, is busy preparing to open Sweet Wife Baking in the Baker Tower.
Mowe-Joseph developed a love of baking as a kid, helping her grandmother bake and decorate cakes.
In Baker City she is renowned for making the cheesecakes sold at the Earth & Vine.
“I’m starting off doing wholesale baking for restaurants around town,” Mowe-Joseph said.
She’ll also take orders at her shop and over the phone to bake and decorate cakes for birthdays and other special occasions.
She’s also baking gluten-free cheesecakes for people on special diets.
This summer Mowe-Joseph has been busy painting and sealing the concrete floor, and she’s about ready for her father-in-law, Randy Joseph, to put up cabinets in preparation for installing her baking equipment.