Updated: February 9, 2013 6:01AM
AURORA — In 1959, a young Ron Kruse walked into the doors of a little retail store in downtown Aurora called Hayden’s Sports and started his professional career.
Over 50 years later, Kruse has hung up his hat as the owner of Hayden’s Sports Center in Montgomery, which he recently sold to BSN Sports, a national sporting goods distributor out of Dallas, Texas.
It all started with Kruse helping customers, stocking inventory, and decorating the storefront windows at Hayden’s Sports on South Broadway. He had just been married the year before and needed a job. The young Kruse was hired on the spot that day in 1959.
“I think they needed a body,” said Kruse, who is now 74.
“I just kept staying. I really enjoyed it,” he said.
He added that his father was a salesman, and Kruse’s plan was to follow his dad’s footsteps, but he wanted to sell sporting goods.
At the time, Hayden’s Sports was a small retail shop that occupied a few different storefronts over the years in downtown Aurora until it moved to Aucutt Road in Montgomery in the early 1970s. Hayden’s Sports started in 1946 as Hayden and Sweasy, two former coaches, partnered to open the sporting goods store. The store slowly grew into more custom sales geared to local schools and youth leagues.
Eventually, Dick Hayden bought out Homer Sweasy, and proceeded to take Kruse under his wing until he retired at age 82.
“Dick Hayden was my mentor and my boss. (He was) the driving force (at Hayden’s Sports) and was instrumental in giving me my start... He was like a second father to me,” Kruse said.
Hayden grew the business from a small retail store into a large company that sold custom team apparel and sporting goods to much of the Midwest. At one point, stores opened up in Elgin, Rockford and Champaign. They stepped out of retail in the 1970s to focus on the school business, Kruse said.
“We were always kind of involved in the school business and youth leagues, and it just kind of grew from there,” he said.
Kruse spent much of his time on the road during those years as a salesman for the business.
Kruse, of Aurora, became the general manager of Hayden’s Sports in 1980, 14 years after purchasing stock in the company. Kruse then ran the company with Rod Carlson and Bud Smith until they retired about six years ago.
After growing the business to be one of the leading independent sporting goods distributors with over a dozen salespeople and three Midwestern offices in addition to their Montgomery headquarters, Kruse said he realized that the industry was changing once again.
“We determined that it would be smart to join a larger sports organization that could give us opportunities that we didn’t have before, in order to stay up with the technology and marketing,” said Kruse, who completed the deal with BSN Sports last fall.
Hayden’s Sports is now BSN Sports, and while Kruse is retiring, his son, Dave, who served as the president of Hayden’s will be a regional sales manager for BSN Sports.
BSN Sports chairman and CEO Adam Blumenfeld said of the acquisition, “Hayden’s experienced sales professionals will combine forces with our own industry-leading sales force in the region — a ‘flood the zone’ approach that will directly serve the interests of the team sports needs (for the area).”
“I’ve known the people at BSN for years... They have outstanding marketing tools and a great product line. We are very pleased to be part of it,” Kruse said.
As far as Hayden’s Sports being a part of Aurora history, Kruse commented, “As we went into the school business, I was always amazed at how people would remember us in retail. The general public didn’t realize we were still in business.”
“We have had some wonderful employees over the years. It was the sales people and all of the staff that was outstanding. We’ve built tremendous relationships with the schools, and we hope that will continue,” Kruse said.
BSN Sports is online at www.bsnsports.com.