A Real Fan’s Man

Without the certified fanatics, our wide world of sports would seem a little narrow. Those hefty, topless men with purple and gold smeared across their chests; Gopher groupies pointing their huge foam fingers; hockey buffs with forest-green faces … without them, the chants would fade, the waves would go flat and the players might lose their grit.

Lucky for sports, the fans are here to stay—and, thanks to places like Nick’s Sports World, we’ll always be able to spot them in the stands. Located on a recently revamped corner of downtown Minneapolis, Nick’s caters to the local sports nut with a full line of Minnesota Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild and Gopher goods, including hats, jerseys, T-shirts, jackets, key chains, coffee mugs, bobbleheads and much more … not to mention a mixed bag of gear from all the visiting teams.

As the fanatics prepare to suit up for game day, Charlie Dahl is their go-to guy. The co-owner and general manager of Nick’s Sports World reviews a few plays from behind the counter.
First off, who’s Nick? He’s one of the owners of the company. Originally the store was named after his father who came here in 1987 to work the American League playoffs and the World Series for the Twins. He signed a three-week lease on this building 18 years ago. We had our best World Series ever that year and decided downtown Minneapolis needed a permanent store. I came on at the same time, right from the start.

How has this part of town changed over the past 18 years? We’ve seen a lot of competition come and go. We’ve seen downtown business workers fluctuate—you know, up times, down times. But it’s been pretty steady and we’re obviously happy here.

According to your sign outside, Nick’s Sports World is “Minnesota’s Largest Official Pro Shop.” That true? Self-proclaimed. We didn’t actually measure the square footage of every store.

You’re in a prime location because both the Target Center (home of the Minnesota Timberwolves) and the Metrodome (home field for both the Twins and the Vikings) are located downtown. If the Vikings or the Twins move out of Minneapolis, would you be forced to move as well? Possibly. Business correlates directly to whether your teams are winning or losing. It’s almost identical. If you get a couple of hot teams each year, that’s all the better for us.

Are there any teams that you’re partial to? I’m a Vikings fan first. I love the Twins, too. But it’s a Vikings town and we’ve got the Packers right next door, so that makes for a lot of fun.

I don’t see a lot of Packers merchandise in here. Do you have a No Cheeseheads policy? They’re my second favorite team, actually. We welcome Packers fans and carry a little bit of the team apparel. It’s a good-natured rivalry. We see couples come in here where the husband’s got a Vikings jersey on and the wife’s got a Packer jersey on, so we have to cater to everyone.

What makes Nick’s stand out against all the rest? Authentic merchandise—the same thing the players are wearing on the field, on the court, on the rink. We carry a wide variety of teams and a wide variety amongst each of those teams. We have face paint, wigs, boas, temporary tattoos, all the great game-day stuff. Throwbacks have been popular lately, but our niche is the hats and jerseys that the players wear.

What’s the most extreme purchase a customer has made? Snoop Dog and his posse came in here a couple years ago. He spent almost a thousand dollars and told the guy behind the counter, “Damn, you almost made me go in my sock!” One of the things he picked out was an Alan Page jersey from the old Vikings days, and I said, “You know, he’s a Supreme Court judge right now.” And Snoop says, “Oh man, I could’ve used him about five years ago.” Evidently Snoop had a little run-in with the law. Shaquille O’Neil’s been in here, too. He had to stoop to get through the doorway. It was wintertime and he bought a Vikings skullcap because his ears were cold.

Do you ever draw in the sports fan who’s maybe a little too obsessed? We do see some of that. A guy came in last spring and wanted every Twins T-shirt that we had, and that was probably 15—way more than one for every day of the week.

What’s your take on bobbleheads? Sometimes they’re up; sometimes they’re down.

How has sports apparel changed over the past two decades? With fashion trends, team sports stuff comes in for a while and then it goes out for a while. The diehard fans wear it all the time, but for the hip-hoppers on down to the school kids, sometimes it’s cool and sometimes it’s not. They’ve also worked a lot on fabrics over the years. Now it’s all made for performance—dry touch, moisture management—for people who are working out. It used to be all cotton or all polyester, but now it’s a mixture of both.

Which pro teams have the most hideous color schemes or designs? Arena football probably gets the wackiest because there are so many teams, and as you add new teams, you have to make it look different from what’s already there. Sometimes that’s hard because everything’s been used. The best sellers are still some of the old classics: the simple New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Raiders. And of course all of the local teams are always on top for us.

Do you think your hockey-related sales will recover this season? It was hard to go a whole year withoutsports fan products hockey, but now it’s back and I think our fans will return stronger than those of most cities. You know, it’s hockey country here, too. And the fans normally don’t hold this stuff against the players; they hold it against management, since the players are the ones they love.

Are the locals actually buying Oakland Raiders’ Moss jerseys? Yes, I’ve reordered several times already. The purple ones went to half price and the black-and-silver ones came in. Moss was a big seller. Response was about 50-50 when he left: Half the people were happy to get rid of the problem and the other half were sorry to lose the touchdowns.

Ever get any strange requests for something you don’t sell? Well, we used to say that we carry ‘everything for the Vikings fan.’ But eventually, we had to change that to ‘almost everything for the Vikings fan.’

Nick’s Sports World,
625 Second Avenue S., Minneapolis
612-371-0412, www.nickssportsworld.com