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City Sports going-out-of-business sale begins, quietly

Brendan Greally (left) and Brendan Pedersen with son Jack Pedersen at the City Sports in Dedham on Friday.David L Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

DEDHAM — The liquidation of the City Sports chain drew a line of exactly two shoppers Friday morning outside the store at the Legacy Place mall — which may explain why the retailer is closing in the first place.

"I'm kind of shocked there aren't more people here, to be honest with you," said Rob Silverman of Needham, who arrived about 8:30 a.m. with his wife, Chrissy. He's been a fan for years because it's "a notch above" competitors. "There's not even a security guard for crowd control."

City Sports opened its first store in 1983 on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston and eventually grew to 26 stores in the Eastern United States. The company filed for bankruptcy in October with plans to close only a few stores. But earlier this week executives said the best offer for the chain's assets came from two companies that will liquidate its inventory. Chief executive Marty Hanaka blamed high rents and poor sales at some suburban stores for bringing down the chain.

Even the liquidation sale — discounts on Friday ranged from 10 to 30 percent — didn't seem to generate much interest early. "Sneakers and athletic wear are not novelties, and there's a sale every other day," Chrissy Silverman said. "If it was a Best Buy — electronics — you'd see people," her husband added.


Business did pick up during the day. By noon, each of the Boston-area stores had surpassed their typical sales for an entire day, according to City Sports spokeswoman Eve Bould. Discounts will grow over time, and the sale will end when the stores close at the end of 2015, or when the merchandise is gone, Bould said.

At the Dedham store, sale preparations were evidently so last-minute that there were still "Now Hiring" signs in the windows. Inside, cheerless yellow and black "ALL SALES FINAL NO RETURNS" signs were hastily being posted behind the cash register — in accordance with US Bankruptcy Court sale guidelines.


A man on a ladder hung "Going Out of Business" posters near a table stacked with City Sports Boston T-shirts, which were a big draw ($14 minus 10 percent). People sorted through shirts while sending texts to check sizes.

"We sold over 1,200 shirts by 10:30 this morning across all the stores," Bould said.

"They're kind of iconic," said Christine Costa of North Quincy, who was flipping through the T-shirts, only to discover most of the smalls gone.

Brendan Greally, an attorney from Roslindale — who came in wearing a City Sports shirt — might have had something to do with that. He'd snapped up 38 of them as Christmas gifts for relatives.

"I got a big Irish family in Boston," he said. "These are going to be vintage."

The T-shirt logo was designed by the sister of City Sports cofounder Eric Martin, who died in 2007 at age 50.

"I travel a lot and I wear it as an identifier for Boston," said Greally. "You'll be in Darwin, Australia, in the middle of nowhere and someone will be like, 'Hey, you're from Boston? I'm from Dorchester.' "

As if on cue, a buddy from his school days named Brendan Pederson walked into the store, wearing a green "I [shamrock] City Sports" shirt, left over from the days when he worked for the chain.


"I had a personal relationship with the owners," Pederson said. "It felt like a mom-and-pop place."

Chris Gerardi of Attleboro, who worked there for eight years until 2014, also came back. He wanted a couple of more shirts, though he already has about 15. "I can't believe that all of a sudden, that's it," he said.

Globe Correspondent Jack Newsham contributed to this report. Linda Matchan can be reached at linda.matchan@globe.com.