‘Minnesota Strong’: Struggling youth sports shop selling new shirt, hopes to help other stores

These new shirts might be the thing that saves St. Mane Sporting Goods in Minneapolis.

As small businesses struggle, while holding out hope for loans to keep them afloat, a 58-year-old sporting goods store in south Minneapolis hit upon a bright idea. If it works, it could not just save them but help others, too.

Even when the economy re-opens, St. Mane Sporting Goods will likely face more tough times ahead with most youth sports, his primary business, in limbo.

"We've been here since 1962," said Bob St. Mane of St. Mane Sporting Goods.

As a second-generation business in south Minneapolis, Bob St. Mane worried business may be done.

"If we didn’t come up with something like this, I don’t think we would have survived," he said.

He’s angrily watched as small business loans went to the bigger companies.

"I filled it out the first day at 6:30 in the morning and got passed over," he said. "And still have been passed over, hopefully, get it the next round here."

Unable to sleep, a couple of nights ago he hit upon a desperate idea: What if he sold t-shirts and sweatshirts highlighting unity during the pandemic? He has now created a new set of gear that reads “Minnesota Strong” with “COVID-19. 2020.” The new shirts have generated some revenue that is otherwise is months away.

"If I’m allowed to open even today, I’m out of business until back to school and fall sports," said St. Mane. "Because the cities have cancelled youth sports through the summer."

It’s more than just him. It helps two printers and an embroider with work. He’s pledging to share profits with another mom-and-pop store.

"For every shirt or sweatshirt that we sold," St. Mane explained. "We were going to take $5 off of each one and give it to some other small business out there. We don’t know who yet, they don’t know who yet and they won’t know until we hand them a check."

Since the sale went live on his website Tuesday, the business has already been brisk enough he feels it could save him.

If the word can spread and if he does get a loan in the second round of funding, he vows to donate proceeds to as many other mom-and-pops as he can.

"This will help me survive more than people will even know," St. Mane said.

He's hoping the business can survive for a third generation.

"Hopefully people learn to shop at their neighborhood stores," said St. Mane’s daughter Morgan St. Mane. "The neighborhood stores love to give back to the communities because the communities are like home to them."

He can print as many orders as come in and he's hoping for thousands. You can check out his online store by clicking here.