Instant Replay: making sports affordable for 15 years

Instant Replay Sports owner Larry VanOstrand (left), Manager Jeff Hopkins (center) and team member Troy Hradisky stand in the sports equipment shop pre-COVID-19.
Instant Replay Sports owner Larry VanOstrand (left), Manager Jeff Hopkins (center) and team member Troy Hradisky stand in the sports equipment shop pre-COVID-19.
Photo by Jessica Wickham
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Anyone who has kids who love sports knows just how expensive it can get.

Fifteen years ago, Larry VanOstrand saw an opportunity to resume his career after a bump in the road and to make sure that no young athlete “does not play the sport or activity they choose to because of the costs to acquire the necessary equipment or clothing.”

That quote comes right from the website of “Instant Replay Sports,” a business that owner and “head coach” VanOstrand acquired after his 18 years working for a sporting goods chain ended in a liquidation sale.

A 1980 graduate of Lansing High, VanOstrand began working for Klein’s All Sports in 1987 as a store manager and rose to become a district manager in charge of 13 stores in and around upstate New York.

“I managed the Ithaca store for 13 years,” he said. “And then, I went on the road as a district manager, working with the family that owned the chain in Utica. As late as September and early October 2004, I was with the owners looking at a possible new location in Auburn.”

In early December 2004, at the peak of the holiday selling season, Larry was on his way to the Watertown store when he got the unpleasant news that the company where he’d worked for almost 18 years was going out of business.

“I was unemployed for a few months, looking for a job and got some offers, but they all wanted me to relocate,” Larry said. “My wife Cindy and I had just bought a house – the one we live in today.”

A Cornell business school graduate had started Instant Replay after school and was operating the business on Third Street in downtown Ithaca.

“I loved the concept and learned that he was looking for someone to take it on,” VanOstrand said. “I closed on the deal on April 12, 2006.”

VanOstrand had kept his hand in the sporting goods business – he had acquired some of Klein’s inventory from the Utica warehouse in the liquidation sale and was re-selling it online on eBay.

“[Today,] we do a lot of business online, mostly through Amazon, eBay and Walmart,” he said. “It’s grown from hand-writing delivery labels on the living room floor to an office and warehouse.”

VanOstrand estimates that 60 to 65% of his sales are online, 5% come from a seasonal presence selling, mostly hockey gear at “The Rink” recreation facility in Lansing, and the remaining 30% are from his main store.

His online presence helps VanOstrand manage his inventory of 30% used and 70% new equipment.

“And people can still support the business while shopping on Amazon,” he said.
In March 2012, he moved the store to a larger and permanent home in Triphammer Plaza.

VanOstrand was in that store on Friday afternoon, working with his long-time manager Jeff Hopkins to walk it through a “soft opening” after being closed for several months by the precautions around the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are officially reopened for curbside pick-up for selected hours,” VanOstrand said. “It wouldn’t work out to be open all day long.”

VanOstrand was a multi-sport athlete at Lansing High, playing football, basketball and baseball all four years. He acknowledges his good fortune in being able to combine a love for and knowledge of games with decades of experience managing sporting goods retail operations.

“Also, the Ithaca market is very open to the re-use, recycle model,” he said. “The whole concept made sense to me, and so, I bought the company.”

VanOstrand reflected on the long history of his business.

“I tell myself that things happen for a reason,” VanOstrand said. “I enjoyed working for Klein’s and, at 44 years old, my plan was to stay with them for the majority of my working career.”

Overall, he’s grateful for everything the community has done for him.

“Any number of people have said to us ‘thank you, I love your store,’” he said. “Now, I want to make sure that this thing keeps going. Good customer service, reduced prices on used equipment and competitive prices on new – I want to make this available to people for the long term.”

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