Outside Business Journal

Retailer Spotlight: Hometown Sports in McCall, Idaho

This rare family-owned specialty outdoor retail shop represents five generations of serving its local McCall, Idaho community

Ryan Wichelns

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For Patty Boydstun-Hovdey, now 65, opening a storefront in McCall, Idaho was probably a given, no matter what she did to avoid it. At the end of the 19th century, Hovday’s great-great-grandfather was among the first settlers of the surrounding valley, setting up the local General Store. Then her great-grandfather founded a similar shop one town over. Next in line, her grandfather launched an ice cream shop. You get the idea.

Originally, Hovdey shot for a different path. After growing up at the local ski hill in McCall, she became a world-class ski racer, joining the U.S. Women’s National Ski Team and heading to the 1972 Winter Olympics. But after traveling the world, she eventually returned to McCall and began teaching ski racing at the same mountain where she learned years earlier. That was when she met her husband Dean.

Patty Boydstun-Hovdey and her husband, Dean (Photo: Hometown Sports)

“I was coaching ski racing and he was a smoke jumper and those two lifestyles took us on the road away from each other,” she said. The fix? Finally embracing the family trade and opening her own store in town.

Hometown Sports opened in 1979 primarily as a winter-only ski shop. Over time, the Hovdeys began adding mountain bikes, water sports, and general mountain sports gear, and staying open year-round beginning in the mid-80s. But according to Hovdey, her business’s heart and heritage will always be in skiing.

“Boots are the most important part of your whole equipment so we really cater to that.”

To their longtime customers, Hometown Sports is known for their boot fitting, primarily when it comes to ski boots. But while most shops educate their employees in-house and amongst themselves, Hovdey likes to take an extra step.

“We put a lot of money into training and education,” she said. She sends a number of her staff to Masterfit University courses. They come back with a full education and a certification to match.

“You have to invest in your people and it’s important that they know that we value them and we take them very seriously.”

When asked if she sees a return on that investment, Hovdey said absolutely. “We have people come back that say they’ll never buy boots anywhere else and we’ve been around long enough that we’re fitting their grandkids now.”

The future of Hometown Sports: Hovdey is grooming her son Eric and his wife, Jessica, to assume ownership of the store later this year. (Photo: Hometown Sports)

“We had ladies in tutus and everyone in the neighborhood got together and rode around town on their bikes in a big parade.”

In a town of only a few thousand residents, not too many establishments have the same local heritage as Hometown Sports. “When you have that much heritage in one area, you just have a real special fondness for taking care of it and being a good steward of your community.”

Dean Hovdey serves on the local hospital board, which is a unique brand to cross-promote with, said Patty. According to her, McCall is consistently named one of the healthiest towns in the state, which gives Hometown Sports partnership with the hospital a clear angle. “We’re promoting fun and health, mainly,” Hovdey said.

For National Ride Your Bike To Work Week last month, Hometown Sports and other local bike shops provided a slew of bikes to the hospital for staff use. The shop has also worked with the hospital and local hardware store to organize community bike rides and barbecues for fun, and supplies helmets to the local learn-to-ski program—the same one Patty grew up participating in.

“There aren’t too many people my age that are a fifth generation in any one place.”

For obvious reasons, history plays a big role in Hometown Sports, but it’s not just Patty Hovdey’s family history that’s memorialized, it’s the history of the town itself.

“My grandfather used to take his team of horses and a sled down to the lake and cut chunks of ice out, then provide that to the town in the days before refrigerators. I’ve got the old pair of ice tongues that he used behind our front counter,” Hovdey said. Old skis and gear, pictures of early-1900s McCall, fragments of Patty’s Olympic history, and even old youth athletic team photos decorate the store, making it something of an unofficial town museum.

The museum-like store features a fascinating collection of old-time gear like these leather boots and crampons. (Photo: Hometown Sports)

“People come in and will point themselves out in these old photos to their kids and their grandkids,” Hovdey said.

Why keep this stuff around? “It’s meaningful to the whole community,” Hovdey said. “You’ve been a part of something for decades and to have a little bit of that history on your wall gives a lot of depth and meaning to what we do today.”

After 38 years in the business, Patty and husband Dean will soon be inducting the sixth generation of McCall merchants. Their son Eric and his wife Jessica will be taking over the shop within the next year.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Patty admitted, but maybe in a testament to her own Olympic past and her family’s tradition, she admitted that “there comes a time when you need to pass the torch.”