GARFIELD, N.J. — With no one to take on the family business, the 101-year-old Meltzer’s Sporting Goods store is closing at the end of the year.
Owner Billy Meltzer, 64, a lifelong Garfield residents, says a perfect storm of events pushed him to surrender the third-generation, family-owned business.
As he sees it, he beat the odds.
“The failure rate of the second-generation family-owned businesses is 60 percent,” Meltzer said, citing the reality TV show, "Profit."
“The failure rate of third generations is 90 percent."
"I called my friend who’s also the third generation in a family business," he said. "I said, 'You see, we proved them wrong. We made it. We survived it'.”
Meltzer’s grandparents opened the store in 1914. His father, a fishing enthusiast, influenced the push to offer sporting goods.
Meltzer came to work for his dad after graduating from college in 1973, then took over at age 36 after his father died in a 1986 car crash.
“I’ve been running the store on my own for 29 years,” he said.
Meltzer’s three children have all successfully pursued interests of their own. He plans on doing the same once the store closes -- which includes spending time with his family and taking a few road trips.
“I’d like to just to have the freedom to get in the car and go somewhere,” Meltzer said.
To many customers, Meltzer’s Sporting Goods was part of growing up.
"Most of our customers grew up through this store. Their grandfather took them here. Their father took them here," he said. "It's almost like a piece of their childhood is going to be gone, and that’s hitting people really hard.”
It's no different for the man himself.
Meltzer grew up in Garfield, went to Garfield High School -- and even spent nights sleeping in the store in the 1970s with police to prevent robberies.
“I’ve had the most colorful, greatest career any retailer could have ever dreamed about,” he said. “There will never be a store like this.”
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