FORT MILL -- Tim and Carmen Wylie got sick of driving north and passing the ball to North Carolina stores every time they needed sporting goods.
So the Tega Cay couple called their own number. Tim quit his job as a retail district manager this fall, and the couple ventured out on their own.
On Friday, they'll open the doors to Thunder Athletics sporting goods store in Fort Mill, at 2000 S.C. 160 next to Towne Tavern. It's one of several new shops opening in the Gateway Commons plaza.
"We could never get the equipment we needed here in town," said Carmen Wylie, whose three sons, ages 12, 9 and 6, play several different sports. "You had to drive into Pineville for everything."
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Thunder Athletics stocks equipment for baseball, soccer, lacrosse and several other sports. It also offers screen printing and team sales.
"We wanted to make it as much of a one-stop shop as possible," Tim Wylie, 35, said.
The store also boasts a selection of collegiate apparel, pro sports paraphernalia and an owner who says he knows his stuff.
"I've coached hockey, baseball, soccer and lacrosse, and I've played, too," Tim Wylie said. He also has about 20 years of experience in the retail field.
While Tim Wylie admits Hibbett Sports and In the Game Athletics in Rock Hill will prove to be his closest competition, he feels Thunder Athletics will be more convenient to Fort Mill residents and will provide better customer service. He also plans to cater to teams and fans in the Fort Mill school district looking for equipment and spirit merchandise.
Plaza filling up
Dan Holmes, owner of plaza anchor Towne Tavern, said Thunder Athletics will be a boon to his business.
"I'm thrilled," Holmes said. "We've become a more retail-oriented plaza, which is good for me."
Holmes said the arrival of Thunder Athletics pairs nicely with the upcoming opening of NDS Cleaners, Chartwell Cigars and Tobacco shop and a wine and spirits store to draw more customers to the plaza. He said the Wylie's and Strickland's Frozen Custard Shop will bolster business by opening on the weekends.
"We used to be a destination. Now, there's more traffic," he said. "Our plaza is a great place because you can be a small business and still be seen."
'God opened doors'
Carmen Wylie, 33, said the decision to give up Tim's job security and insurance benefits for a startup family business was a tough choice. She said the couple had debated the idea for months when Tim called her one day from the airport and said he was going to quit his job. Since then, she said, the couple has seen God help them get off the ground.
"Since Tim quit his job, God has just opened up so many doors," she said. Carmen Wylie said everything from the store's location along growing S.C. 160 between Fort Mill and Tega Cay to financing for startup costs all fell into place since August. Friends from their Sunday school class at Fort Mill Baptist Church have even pitched in to get the store ready for its Friday opening, she said.
"We really saw this as a need in the community," Tim Wylie said. "This is a great community to be a part of, and that's what we hope to do."
ABOUT THE STORE
• What: Retail athletic equipment, apparel and team sales
• Where: 2000 S.C. 160, Fort Mill, next to Towne Tavern
• Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays
• Owners: Tim and Carmen Wylie
• Phone: (803) 548-6079
• On the Web: www.thunderathletics.com