Columbia sporting goods retailer Todd & Moore celebrates 70 years of sales, memories

08/06/2014 3:41 PM

08/06/2014 3:42 PM

For Gamecock fans, picking up garnet and black apparel at Todd & Moore Sporting Goods is a pregame ritual as sacred and unique to Columbia as rattling the bleachers to “Sandstorm” or torching a massive Tiger effigy.

The local shop, which has been owned and operated through three generations of the Todd and Moore family, on Thursday will celebrate its 70th year of being “Your Specialists in Sports,” as its tagline goes.

“It’s all I’ve ever really known,” said co-owner Chuck Todd, 62. “I’ve grown up in Todd & Moore and I take pride that we’re still in business.”

In 1944, Todd’s grandfather, who coached football at Erskine College for 25 years, used his coaching experience to open Todd’s Sporting Goods in what is now the Nickelodeon Theatre. About two years later, the Moore family married into the business.

Today, the store’s legacy lives on through Todd and his first cousin, George “G” Moore.

“It’s pretty amazing to be in business this long,” said Moore, 67, who also is a co-owner. “Especially in the climate today where you have so much internet sales and the big box stores like Dick’s and Academy.”

Now located on Huger Street, the cozy shop stands short and stout in defiant contrast to the towering ceilings of its retail chain rivals. The sales floor is stocked with the latest in sporting equipment, but the store’s commitment to customer service is a luxury quickly becoming old-fashioned in today’s retail world – in July, Dick’s Sporting Goods laid off 478 PGA-certified employees nationwide who specialized in providing customers with hands-on golf service and expertise amid declining sales.

“(My father and grandfather) taught me that business is based on friendships and good service,” said Moore, who has sales professionals in baseball, tennis and running that are either current or former athletes of their department’s sport. “Here, they’re an authority, they know what they’re talking about. They’re not just pulling something off the shelf – they know from experience.”

But the magic of Todd & Moore hides in the back of the store, tucked away behind racks of clothing like an old jersey kept as a reminder of the glory days. A few steps lead up to a landing furnished with faded retro chairs and a sofa. The wood-paneled walls are adorned with articles and autographed vintage posters of hometown sports heroes like Frank McGuire, who had the most wins of any basketball coach at the University of South Carolina and was one of the many coaches who frequented the shop to hang out.

“If that sofa could talk … the stories it would tell,” said Beth McCrary, a sales associate and buyer at Todd & Moore who has worked there for 25 years.

Back in the days before e-mail and social media website sharing, the landing served as a neutral territory for rival high school and college coaches to trade game films and swap stories. Former USC football coaches Marvin Bass and Paul Dietzel also were among the regulars who sat around telling (often embellished) tales.

“The fish they caught got bigger every year,” McCrary said with a laugh.

More recently, former USC football players Ace Sanders, Bruce Ellington and Marcus Lattimore would stop in before every game. Each would buy a pair of gloves and a mouth guard, wear them on the field, then sign their purchases and give them to kids after the game. Moore says the athletes had to buy their own because of “another one of those stupid NCAA rules” that bars players from giving team-supplied equipment to fans.

Art Baker, former head coach of Furman, The Citadel and East Carolina football programs, says he owes the start of his career to Todd & Moore. Back when he was a rookie head coach at McColl High School in Marlboro County, Baker, working on a $3,200 annual salary, couldn’t afford to properly equip his team. Todd & Moore fronted him the money, allowing the principal of McColl to pay the store back later.

“I’ll never forget the Saturdays that we would come up here after our games on Friday,” Baker said in a video on the store’s website. “Everybody was always trying to pull a joke on everybody else – you were just hoping you weren’t the one they were pulling it on.”

But the longstanding tradition that is Todd & Moore may be nearing the end of its lineage. Moore says that while business is steady, the chains of big box retailers in the area, like the Dick’s on Bower Parkway and the Academy Sports on Park Terrace Drive, are slowly suffocating the family-run store. Todd & Moore closed its location near Columbia Place Mall in 2011 after Academy and Dick’s both opened stores in that area.

Further, Moore’s kids got married and scattered across the country. Same goes for Todd, whose daughters are off and married and whose son, Charlie, is in New York City working as a “professional prankster” for the YouTube sensations Improv Everywhere, pulling stunts like riding the subway in their underwear and getting masses of people to freeze in Grand Central Station.

None of either Todd or Moore’s children has expressed interest in taking the reigns when their fathers retire.

“It’s getting tighter and tighter,” Moore said. “It’s always been in the family, but that’s not to say if things continue to go like they are right now, if 10 years from now one of these bigger stores offers to buy us we wouldn’t listen.”

Until that day comes, however, Todd & Moore will continue to stand up to the big guy and to fight for what can’t be bought in any store – the sense of community and friendship they have built over their 70-year run.

“I think both of us will be here till we have to be carried out … and I don’t know what’s gonna happen after that,” Moore said.

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