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Silver Celebration

Gronskis still loving what they do, 25 years after opening Athletic Outfitters

Athletic Outfitters, 409 Liberty St., in downtown Morris, has been under the auspices of its current owners for 25 years.

Eric and Karen Gronski purchased the existing business, called T & T Sporting Goods, on Feb. 29, 1988. They renamed it Athletic Outfitters and renovated the interior of the business. They remodeled the outside of the building in 1996 and 1997.

Previous to this, Eric was manager at the Sears Store located in Bedford Plaza in Morris for 12 years. Karen was an aerobics instructor for eight years for Morris Area Leisure Services (MALS) while their children were very young.

Eric Misener was Athletic Outfitters’ first part-time employee and, in 2012, they hired his oldest daughter, Mallory. When Eric was working there in the early days, they did embroidering, screening and engraving, but retailing played a much bigger part. Now, during Mallory’s work day, the other aspects of the business are king.

“The way you do business has to change and evolve as everything changes, affecting you,” the Gronskis recognize. As a result, the embroidering, screening and engraving have taken the front seat, along with advertising specialties items for corporate customers.

Joyce Hutchings, who worked with Eric Gronski for 12 years at Sears, is their longest-serving employee, having been hired in 1989. She is the main engraver. Kati Vertrees has been their meticlulous embroiderer for 18 years.

And, of course, the Gronskis dogs have long been a part of the business — Max, an miniature schnauzer for 12 years, and Cooper, an English springer spaniel, for five years.

Heyday for Nike is one of the popular items customers like, and there is a waiting list to purchase Michael Jordan shoes.

Eric has been an active member of Morris Retail Association for 25 years, and is a former member of the retail committee of the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce and Industy.

He brings the “fussy gene” to the business over all details and orders — nothing goes out “kind of close.”

He has definite opinions on men’s clothing style and really doesn’t sell anything he wouldn’t personally wear.

The Gronskis have no retirement plans. In fact, the Gronskis say they enjoy living in this small-town community more now than they did 20 years ago.

They have enjoyed serving several of the same customers over and over during the past 25 years and still get excited for the Morris Redskins.

“Great people live here and come in to shop,” they said.

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