The Hockey Stop - A Solid Goal
At a recent Madison Avenue Merchants Association meeting, I spoke with new members Jason Levanduski and Tim Sullivan, owners of the Hockey Stop (15609 Madison Ave.).
When Sullivan asked why I never “secret shopped” at their establishment, I laughed and admitted that I had no interest in hockey and had never been in their store. Then I realized how I was limiting myself, businesses and readers to things that I love—antiques, clothing, art, jewelry and food. So I decided to expand my horizons and hopefully open some eyes to what others view as “treasures,” including hockey sticks, cool uniforms and a great assortment of skates.
A few days after meeting these young entrepreneurs, I visited their unique Hockey Stop and immediately felt welcome upon entering the cool air conditioning on a hot and humid day. While I have never needed hockey equipment for myself, what I found in this storefront was a familiar energy, similar to the stores I do frequent—a passion from the owners for something they love and want to bring to the community.The Hockey Stop opened its doors on June 19, 2006, after Levanduski and Sullivan worked tirelessly on a three-year plan. In fact, they rented the building a year before they even opened their doors, completely gutting the place and designing it with their own personal style, which is quite tasteful I might add.
When I asked the owners how long they have played hockey, their eyes lit up as they said since the ages of 3 and 4. Both went to school in Lakewood, had hockey scholarships in college, traveled the world and came full circle to open the store in Lakewood and share their passion.
Why Lakewood? Sullivan said, “We wanted to come home.” The two considered various areas when deciding where to open their business—east side, west side and every suburb. They were soon driven back to Lakewood, a town they love, in hopes of offering something back to the community that has given them so much.
This dynamic duo brings in customers from all over Ohio and even as far as Chicago. In the short time I was there, the coach from St. Edward and the coach from St. Ignatius crossed paths with friendly nods.
Both Levanduski and Sullivan coach hockey, and Sullivan also works full time as a teacher in a Catholic high school. Levanduski runs the shop until Sullivan finishes his first job and rushes to this one. Although, they admit, “This does not feel like a job. This is our passion. We never feel like we are working when we are here.”
They offer customers truly personalized service, which differs from larger chains. Questions about skates or equipment are answered solidly by experienced players, who still open boxes containing new equipment the way kids open Christmas presents. The fact that they test out all of the products guarantees that buyers will get what they paid for. That passion, knowledge and personal touch can never be franchised, which is why small businesses such as this should be supported.
Another characteristic that sets this business apart is its computerized skate sharpener from Finland that is foolproof. It sharpens skates the same way each time without error. Hockey Stop is the only business to offer this tool in the area. As I learned, the business involves part skate sharpening (imperative to all skaters), part retail and part outfitting schools and teams, including many local and out-of-town schools, as well as the youth at Winterhurst.
Lakewood is fortunate to have honest and fresh, innovative businesses such as this one. I went in wondering how I would write an article on a sport I knew little about, and left wondering how I could fit in everything I had learned. Before departing I asked Sullivan, “Why should a kid play hockey?” He answered with a matter-of-fact tone, “Because it is the greatest game in the world.”
When I went home, I registered my 5-year-old for skating lessons. Who knows, this could be the sport for my little lightening rod son. Somehow passion is contagious, and I can’t help but want to have connections with the businesses at the heart of this community.
For more information about the Hockey Stop, call (216) 221-7423.