PARK SLOPE — The mom and pop sporting goods shop that sold "Brooklyn" T-shirts long before the borough became an international symbol of cool is closing after 29 years in business.
Sport Prospect at 362 Seventh Ave., between 10th and 11th streets, will close around Valentine's Day, said co-owner Carl Manco.
"It's sad, but it's not a bad thing," 64-year-old Manco said, meaning that the closure isn't because of a rent increase. "It's been 29 years and it's retirement time."
Brothers Carl and Anthony Manco opened Sport Prospect in 1988. Photo: DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht
The small shop carries anything a Little Leaguer or weekend exerciser might need — batting helmets, jog bras, soccer balls — but it's probably best known for its Brooklyn-themed T-shirts, hats, hoodies and baby onesies. Last holiday season, the store's biggest seller was a jokey T-shirt advertising "Gowanus Elixir."
Manco came up with the idea of emblazoning the borough's name on merchandise in the early 1990s after he noticed clothing stamped with city names in other parts of the country.
As Brooklyn's profile rose, so did Sport Prospect's foot traffic. Though it doesn't have a website and doesn't advertise, the store gets shoppers from all over the world, including tourists from Europe and Japan. Its Brooklyn-boasting items have found their way to celebrities including Paul McCartney and the Dalai Lama, Manco said.
Mayor Bill be Blasio (seen here in a Sport Prospect Brooklyn hoodie) and his family, who lived around the corner from the store before moving to Gracie Mansion, are among the store's regulars. Photo: Sport Prospect
And though other Brooklyn-centric merchandisers followed his lead, Manco has kept his prices low. His shop's classic cotton Brooklyn hoodie is still $39.95, compared to $78 for a similar product at Brooklyn Industries.
Some of the Brooklyn-themed merchandise at Sport Prospect. Photo: DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht
Manco once ran athletic programs at St. Saviour's and worked at Manhattan's Paragon Sports for 13 years before opening his own store. He said his philosophy has always been KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid. He intentionally doesn't stock $300 baseball gloves. "I leave that to the big stores," he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Carl Manco and his brother Anthony, who runs the store with him, were making a Hall of Fame window display to thank their longtime local supporters.
The shop has been a steady supplier of T-shirts for several neighborhood institutions, including P.S. 107, Beansprouts Nursery School, St. Francis Xavier youth sports program and the local chapter of the American Youth Soccer Organization.
Carl Manco, a lifelong Park Slope resident who gets a little misty-eyed when he talks about the store's end, said he'll miss his customers.
"There's no other neighborhood a store like this could live," Manco said. "The people of Park Slope, they're not really into brand names. They don't want Nike or Reebok. They'd rather have 'Brooklyn.' They have a lot of pride."
Sport Prospect is the latest in a string of business closures on Seventh Avenue south of Ninth Street. Other businesses that have either shuttered recently or are about to close include Scalino, Buttermilk Bakeshop, Goldy + Mac, 4 Play Brooklyn, a Shoe Grows in Brooklyn, and Thistle Hill Tavern.
Retail rents on Seventh Avenue are now $100 to $149 per square foot, a 35 percent increase from 2007, according to the recently released 2017 Brooklyn Retail Report from real estate firm CPEX. On Park Slope's Fifth Avenue, rents are also $100 to $149 per square foot, but that’s a 322 percent increase from 2007, according to CPEX.
Other recent Openings & Closings in the neighborhood include: