Riverdale’s subterranean soccer salesman

Derric Lewis has soccer on the brain. In fact, his obsession with the sport has led to a basement overflowing with posters, books, shoes, jerseys…

Derric Lewis has soccer on the brain.

In fact, his obsession with the sport has led to a basement overflowing with posters, books, shoes, jerseys and balls.

But he’s no packrat.

Everything is for sale.

Lewis is hoping the beautiful game will eventually put him on an even playing field with other sporting retailers.

“I saw a niche here,” said Lewis, as he rifled through piles of uniforms and deflated soccer balls. He stopped to hold up a yellow shirt with a green collar, the number 10 written on the back. “That’s a classic … Pele.”

At this point, a corner of his Riverdale home has even been converted into a tiny display area, with a rainbow of brightly coloured jerseys on racks, and walls full of soccer boots from Italy with names like Ryal, Pantofola D’oro and Andreas.

“It’s specialty stuff, I’m not focusing on, say, just shoes — there’s too many different needs,” he said.

Local soccer diehards are certainly familiar with these brands — and with Lewis’ fledgling enterprise.

He outfits the men’s, women’s and adult coed leagues in Whitehorse. But it’s still safe to say that his business is a grassroots one.

“It’s a one-man operation, it’s just me,” said Lewis. He added that he can’t actually sell items out of his home — but fans can come and browse, place an order and he’ll deliver it.

“I’d love to have my own storefront — with that, the door opens for big names like Nike, Adidas, Umbro.”

He added that memorabilia suppliers are more open to small businesses like his.

He admits he’s been thinking about The Soccer Shoppe for a few years, but the business has taken a different route to get to where it is now.

Three years ago, Lewis started a soccer camp for kids in Whitehorse, and needed a supplier for the jersey, shorts, socks and ball that came with the camp registration fee.

He found one, and eventually bought out another suppliers’ inventory as well.

The Summer Soccer Explosion Day Camp was a hit, and has since grown to over 200 kids signed up for this summer’s Whitehorse program, and camps in Dawson, Faro and Haines Junction as well.

Lewis has hired three full-time coaches, who also serve as camp counsellors, and he handles the management side of things.

“We were bringing in a fair bit of equipment, and it just kind of happened,” said Lewis, on how he started with the collectible/memorabilia side of things.

“I’m always on the lookout for soccer shops that are going out of business — and with the internet and online suppliers, it’s been really easy.”

He also started travelling to soccer tournaments, setting up a booth and selling his wares. “I wanted to establish relationships with communities that didn’t have a soccer shop.”

In May, he travelled to Yellowknife for the Supersoccer tournament, which had over 120 teams in attendance — he plans to return there for the Arctic Winter Games in 2008.

“If I could travel to two events a month — that would be the equivalent of full-time for me,” he said, adding that he juggles casual jobs with Canada Post, Air North and the Canada Games Centre on top of his entrepreneurial pursuits.

Not to mention that he has a young family, with three kids.

In the next month, Lewis plans to combine a family vacation with travelling to soccer tournaments in Penticton, Chilliwack and Vancouver Island, before returning for the indoor soccer season.

“It’s exiting to relate and build on the soccer culture here,” said Lewis. “The sky’s the limit.”

To see what treasures are buried in Lewis’ basement, call 393-4799.

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