Scheels community kickoff event

Todd Modic and Ben Gokee of Children’s Cancer Network accepted a check for $10,000 from Scheels Store Leader Louie Sikich at the store’s community kickoff event. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

Six months before the first Scheels store opens in Arizona, the company threw a big media event to introduce itself to Chandler.

The retailer has been around for more than a century, but it will be a new experience for many in this area.

And owners stressed the word “experience.”

“What makes us different, is No. 1, we try to create an experience. When you walk into our stores, whether it’s a saltwater aquarium, the Ferris wheel, the statues outside, the simulators, the archery lanes, the children’s play area, Fuzziwigs (Candy Factory), etc. etc, we want you to come and we want you to enjoy shopping,” said Steve Scheel, the CEO of the employee-owned company.

Scheel said there are two other reasons his operation is different from any other retailer out there.

One is that Scheels has the largest selection of sporting goods anywhere, he boasted.

“At any one given time, there will be 250-to-300,000 different items in our store,” Scheel said.

He said during the course of the year, as inventories change per season, they will stock more than 2 million items.

“It will be a selection unlike anything you’ve seen,” he said. “Our selection is second to none.”

What also sets Scheels apart from its competition is that its employees are experts in their fields.

He said his business invests in that, sending employees to schools and to train with experts so that they can give customers the proper advice.

“We spend more time and money training our people than any other retailer we know of,” he said. “Every one of our full- time employee owners, who are salespeople, come back one time a week, 48 weeks a year, to train after we close at night.”

The Chandler Scheels is scheduled to open at the end of September at the Chandler Fashion Center.

There are 34 Scheels stores around the nation. The company was started near Fargo, N.D., where the company is based today.

Scheel said the Chandler store will be 250,000 square feet. It will include some of Scheels’ staples, including a salt water aquarium, a Ferris wheel, rollerball (kind of like bowling, but with smaller, lighter balls), an arcade and sports simulators, and a cafe.

“I cannot contain my joy about how excited we are that Scheels has chosen Chandler for your first Arizona location,” Mayor Kevin Hartke said.

The media event included a video presentation, a marching band from Basha High and goodies.

It closed with Scheels handing out some checks. It donated $10,000 each to three Chandler nonprofits, ICAN, Children’s Cancer Network and Legacy Cares.

“Our goal in Chandler is to be the No. 1 retailer giving back to nonprofits and youth organizations within three years after we open,” Scheel said.

Intel, which has two campuses in Chandler, currently donates about $7 million a year to Arizona-based organizations.

Louie Sikich will manage the Chandler location. He said the focus right now is hiring and training the 500 associates they will need to work in the store.

“We just put in the saltwater aquarium, no fish in it yet, just the aquarium” Sikich said. “Next week we have the airplane that gets installed.

“Most importantly, though, in that building is going to be over 500 Scheels associates. That’s what makes us special. Steve referenced good people, experts. And we’re very, very excited for that. And that’s our biggest focus right now is those people.”

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