Play It Again Owner Revels in Helping Families, Athletes
Owner of Dedham's Play it Again Sports, Mike Leivi, doesn't hide behind a plexiglass wall during business hours, but rather remains on the floor - where he says he belongs.
Play It Again Sports owner Mike Leivi does what he loves to do, and he never thought he’d be doing it.
In college, he gave business a wry shot before alternately pursuing environmental education. Accounting for what he does now, a mere whim is to credit more than anything - that and an ad in the Sunday Boston Globe calling for potential business owners of a used sporting good franchise.
After receiving some ample information, between asking around and scheduling meetings with accountants and lawyers, he took that call, realizing the potential.
"Retail was never really on the back of my mind. [I was always] active. I like to deal with people all the time. And if you’re not a people person, retail is really not the business for you," he said.
Leivi is a people-person first and foremost. That is to say, if he were playing a game of hockey, he wouldn’t be in it for the competition so much as the chance to play as part of a team, passing ideas back and forth without any particular intent of slapping anything into a net. His pride is in the strength of a relationship and the power of the personal touch.
"We make sure we have great customer service [and] make sure we have the customer in mind. We’ll spend an hour fitting a kid in hockey gear, fitting helmets, skates. We’ll spend time to make sure it’s safe and fitting properly."
While he was never an athlete per say, sports have always been somewhere in the background ("I grew up playing sports way, way back"), if even on the T.V. of a local bar. Beyond being an inherent symptom of masculinity, an interest in sports, and particularly the retail aspect, may have originated from his father. His dad had a used sports store in Newton called Poor Sports, and furthermore with another store he worked at called Herman’s.
While Play it Again Sports isn’t the only sporting goods store in town, with Dick’s down Providence Highway and Olympia right on the back side of the building, he doesn’t fear competition. Leivi said his upper-hand comes from offering families what the others lack: the affordability of second-hand, “hard goods” like cleats and hockey merchandise, and most importantly, he said, the human element and knowledgeability of product.
What wouldn’t he change? His active participation:
"Businesses that thrive are owner-occupied, with the owner in the store. Selling is good. I wouldn’t change working out front to do office stuff."
He also enjoys the perks of his position, citing what he fancies most:
"Being my own boss, not being able to answer to anyone but myself. If something has to get done, I get it done. [Now] I can delegate responsibility and get stuff done, [which] makes it easier, [but] it takes a while for a business owner to let things go. I just can’t do everything. It’s still fun. I enjoy coming on and turning the lights on."
What’s the store’s greatest asset?
"The employees. Most employees have been here five years, five-plus [in some cases]. There’s a good mix of older and high school kids. One has been with [us] since he was 14."
Being that the store is so family-friendly, it’s not surprising that Leivi regards the employees as family members. This is not just because some employees work alongside siblings and children, but as they also find time to bond on and off the floor, be it at the Halfway Café before opening, or The Yard House after lock-up.
What he most wants readers to know about his store? He puts it simply:
"That we’re here."