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Gainesville Play It Again Sports to close in March
Owner plans to retire to Athens
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Stephen Gram, store manager of Play It Again Sports in Gainesville, prepares for closing sale beginning Thursday. - photo by Kristen Oliver

After 23 years in business, Pat Ghastin is ready to retire.

The owner of Play It Again Sports in Gainesville has decided to close his store on Dawsonville Highway after more than two decades in business.

Ghastin and his brother Bob owned the Play it Again Sports in Gainesville and another location of the franchise in Athens. They recently closed the Athens location, and the Gainesville location will follow in March.

“We’re both in our mid-60s now, and this is kind of a young person’s game,” Pat Ghastin said. “We’ve also had a little bit of health issues, but mainly it’s just time to move on.”

Academy Sports and Outdoors recently announced intentions to build on a plot of land adjacent to Ghastin’s store on Dawsonville Highway, but Ghastin said his decision to close is a coincidence.

Play it Again Sports is an international franchise store, which invites customers to recycle quality used sports and fitness gear and purchase new or used gear.

“We started our first store in Athens about 25 years ago,” Ghastin said. “We opened this one about a year and a half later.”

Prior to opening the store, Ghastin was an assistant volleyball coach at the University of Georgia. He then started the volleyball program at Auburn University, where he coached for six years.

“I decided that was a young person’s game, too,” he said. “I decided to move on from that and found this franchise opportunity. It looked like just the right thing to do, so we jumped right into it.”

Ghastin said he plans to close shop in March, though no official date has been set. He will move back to Athens, where he went to school and his brother and many friends live now.

“I’ll be getting back into circulation with old friends,” he said. “Just enjoy retirement and enjoy life.”

The store closed briefly Monday through Wednesday to prepare for its final store-closing sale, beginning Thursday. All items in the store are on sale, and customers can enter a drawing for prizes totaling more than $2,000.

Prizes include a 50-inch smart TV, a gas-and-charcoal hybrid grill, a Keurig coffeemaker, a blender kit and more.

Ghastin credited his many customers and friends over the years for their support.

“As a small business, you don’t exist 20 years without good relationships in the community. I think we made a lot of good friends over the years.”

Stephen Gram, store manager, who’s worked at the store for eight years, said he was sorry to see it closing.

“It’s a special store,” he said. “We’ve seen some cool stuff in here over the years.”

Though he’s closing one chapter of his life, Ghastin said he and his brother are looking forward to moving on to something new.

“I’m a little apprehensive, but I know it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s exciting, but it’s scary at the same time.”

Winmark Corp., the franchisor of Play It Again Sports, aims to keep a store location in Gainesville, according to the company’s director of franchise development, Pete First.

“We’re actively seeking a buyer for this franchise and would love to see someone from the Gainesville community acquire this location and save the store from closing,” First said. “... We would be thrilled to have someone step up with interest in keeping this business open and building sales back to the level we know it can reach.”

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