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Play it Again Sports to close after 18 years

Sharon Weaver and her son, Nathan, came from Park Rapids to upgrade his hockey gear and some golf clubs for her on Friday afternoon. After 18 years, Play it Again Sports plans to close its doors. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - After 18 years providing new and used sports equipment in the Bemidji area, Play it Again Sports is closing.

"It is a shame because we donate a lot to the community," owner Ken Pankow said Friday. "We sponsor a lot of different sports teams, youth teams and donate to different causes, so not only are you not going to have anywhere to buy your stuff, but that resource is drying up as well."

The Bemidji Youth Hockey Association is one group that Pankow and the store have supported through the years.

"(Pankow) has been a big supporter of Bemidji Youth hockey for many, many years," youth hockey vice president Kevin Waldhausen said.

"He has given back to this hockey community and we are sad to lose the business not just for Bemidji Youth Hockey but for the entire community."

Pankow, who has ran the store for 18 years after moving from Mankato, said that rent and increasing business costs led him to shut the store down.

"This isn't a lack of sales issue," he said. "The sales were there, the profitability just isn't."

The store is located in a strip mall at 2219 Paul Bunyan Drive NW. The strip mall is owned by Kraus-Anderson.

Linda Autrey, property manager for Kraus-Anderson, was out of the office Friday and unable to comment.

Pankow said it is the company's unwillingness to change their mind on what the rent is worth that forced him to the decision.

Pankow said for the last couple years he searched for a new location that would make sense but never found one. The thought of selling did not cross his mind because he did not see the business being sustained unless it moved.

"Somebody would have the idea that they could move it to a cheaper location and somehow resuscitate the business," Pankow said.

He also said profit margins have been narrowed due to internet sales. He said he had to cut his prices to stay competitive with online prices. If prices are too much higher than online, people look elsewhere.

The business, which is best known for buying and selling used equipment, has also seen a drop in used equipment sales over the years. Pankow said fewer people also seem to bring in used equipment to sell.

The store plans to sell its skate sharpening and skate repair equipment to the Bemidji Community Arena Skating Rink.

Pankow said the store will close when the inventory is gone, likely in early August.

As for Pankow, he said he does not know what he will do next.

"It is sad," Pankow said. "I loved this job. That's the sad part for me is I don't know what I'm going to do because I don't know what else I want to do."