Landmark Haliburton sporting goods store to close after nearly three decades in business
By Jenn Watt
Three decades is a long time to be working at anything, and when you own one of Haliburton’s landmark shops, it means more memories than anyone can recount in a single conversation.
JoAnne Sharpley has been doing a lot of reminiscing lately, as she readies herself for retirement this fall and the closure of JoAnne Sharpley’s Source for Sports, the business that has been the focus of her professional life for so long.
“People [back] in the day would line up for two hours to get into the store for Midnight Madness [street sale],” JoAnne said last week, seated in her office with former soft goods manager Courtney Cook. The pair share their stories back and forth, often finishing one another’s sentences, one memory leading to another.
“The lineup would be down the street -” JoAnne said.
“- we always had to have a door guy,” Cook finished.
“Yeah, we always had a bouncer,” JoAnne said.
They’d stock up on snacks and pop, working until one in the morning, until finally JoAnne would tell the bouncer to tell people the sales had ended and it was time to go home.
The store has been a Haliburton destination for much of its existence, outfitting hockey players, skiers, snowboarders, kayakers, runners – you name it.
It has come a long way since Glen and JoAnne Sharpley bought The Sports Stop 29 years ago.
“We bought a cottage in 1990 on Maple Lake,” JoAnne recalls. “And Glen, my ex, had to retire from hockey … so we were here, at the cottage, and ran into our real estate agent. And [Glen] said, ‘is there a business for sale in Haliburton?’ and she said, ‘yes,’ and I prayed right at that moment that it was like a sewing machine store that was for sale and the words that came out of her mouth were ‘the local sporting goods store is for sale.’ So Glen being an ex-hockey player [it was a perfect fit].”
The transition to small town Ontario was difficult at first because JoAnne had come from Oakville, which she loved, but it didn’t take long before her heart was in Haliburton. “And now I’m just thrilled to have brought up my boys here,” she said.
JoAnne’s sons, Jonathan and Justin, both worked in the family business, joining the team of staff that some summers would grow to at least a dozen. The store has moved several times, starting in a space of about 600 square feet where Cranberry Cottage is now through several other locations before settling at the 6,000-square-foot building near the corner of Highland Street and Maple Avenue.
In 2014, the store changed from Sharpley’s Source for Sports to JoAnne Sharpley’s Source for Sports, with JoAnne as sole owner.
Over the years, she said she’s been blessed with a dedicated core of staff, several of them working at the shop for more than a decade. In the last year, two longtime employees, Kevin Sicard and Courtney Cook, decided to move on to other things, but both have continued to help out.
“We always took great pride in [the store environment]: our walls always looked fantastic and people used to ask in the past, who are your buyers? Me and Court,” JoAnne said.
“Yeah, and Kevin used to kill it with his wakeboard displays,” Cook said.
“Kevin was thehard goods manager of the world … And to this day, even now, after hours Kevin has been coming in, so has Courtney. Kevin comes in after hours, tidies things up … when all my new wakeboards came, he came and put them all together,” JoAnne said.
In addition to the two-legged staff, several furry friends have also helped out over the years, each appropriately named after brands sold at the store: Oakley, Easton, Burton, Wilson, and Nixon.
“Oakley was the original. He was the OG of Sharpley’s,” Cook said.
“He would sit outside and wait for people to give him their ice cream cones,” JoAnne said.
“Or the poor kid that dropped it,” Cook laughed.
The store has also been a coveted summer job for young people, a meeting place for others, that sold the clothes and sporting equipment they were looking for. About 20 years ago, Sharpley’s shifted direction with their merchandise, expanding from offering brands like Nike, Columbia and Adidas to include surf brands like Billabong, Roxy and Quiksilver etc.
“In the year 2000, we brought in all the surf brands,” JoAnne said. “… We were at a surf expo, a big, big, show in Orlando and – this is like a stadium-size show – and all the brands are there. Glen and I had never been before and there was a lineup outside this one booth that wrapped right around the corner and it was all Roxy and Quiksilver and we had no idea what that was until we waited in line to get in.”
In the years that followed, they continued to grow their range of products, adding paddleboards and kayaks, Blundstone boots and other goods that people of all ages wanted.
“Especially the young after-school students that we had work here, we would hand them all of our catalogues and say, ‘go through it, mark on it the stuff you like,’” Cook said. “Because everybody that works here, we were all spread out in age.”
During the years that the Molou Theatre was in operation, the corner of Highland and Maple would be filled with young people, who would make a night of going to the movies – meeting at Sharpley’s and shopping, eating at McKeck’s and then going to the movies.
“And then the year that they had Rock the Wake [wakeboarding event in Haliburton], we had to have 20 staff on,” JoAnne said. Again, the young people would congregate at Sharpley’s.
JoAnne Sharpley said she will miss coming in to her store every day, interacting with the staff and seeing her regular customers. She said it was “awesome to watch our young people grow and learn” and to build friendships with local and seasonal residents.
It’s been an honour and a privilege to make a positive contribution to the community, she said, and was happy to help others have fun in the Highlands no matter the season.