Store gives Salisbury a Franklin Street feel
By Ronnie Gallagher
Go into any sports store on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, and you’ll see a long, narrow strip of shirts, hats, belts, magnets … anything Carolina Blue.
Thanks to Mike Fuller, owner of Innes Street Drugs, a little of Franklin Street has come to Salisbury.
Ultimate Sports Apparel has been open for two weeks on South Main Street, directly beside the drug store. The Carolina feel is immediate with the blue tent outside the front door. Walk inside, and you’ll think you’re in one of those Chapel Hill shops.
“I am a graduate of the University of North Carolina,” Fuller announced, “and I am definitely a North Carolina fan. Our intent was to have a Franklin Street atmosphere.”
But the store is a paradise for more than just UNC fans. East Carolina and Appalachian State apparel can be found along with items from the ACC’s Tobacco Road schools.
And don’t forget Davidson’s sudden emergence in the Sweet 16. Stephen Curry lit up Georgetown on Sunday, and customers lit up store manager Justin Wells with queries the following day.
“That’s probably not a shirt we’d carry,” Wells said. “But on Monday, I had a half-dozen people in here asking. I told them I’d have them in as quick as I can get ’em.”
Fuller laughed. “Curry certainly didn’t hurt our thoughts on that.”
Wells then opened a box full of Davidson shirts. “We try to cater to everybody,” he said.
Catering to everybody is why Ultimate Sports Apparel is now a reality.
Fuller had a wall of memorabilia along a 20-foot section of the drug store, but the demand was overwhelming the space.
Luckily, next door was the equipment room Wells operated. Fuller decided it was time for Salisbury to brag about its own “Franklin Street store.”
“New paint, new lights, new ceiling fans, new carpet, custum-designed check-out counter … I completely did a 180,” Wells chuckled. “It has been great.”
Fuller said he simply ran out of room in the drug store.
“Our sales were just going crazy,” he said. “We decided to flip-flop and put the college stuff on this side.”
And not just North Carolina stuff, although there is a strong blue flavor within those walls.
“I’d say 75 percent of the people who come in are Carolina fans,” Wells reported. “But Appalachian State is probably close to No. 2, along with N.C. State and East Carolina. Surprisingly, Duke is further down the list.”
Even before the store was open, Fuller had an Appalachian State tent in front of the drug store, celebrating the Mountaineers’ third straight football championship. No one has to drive to Boone to find their favorite Appalachian State items anymore.
Wells is currently concentrating on fulfilling the needs of Charlotte 49ers fans.
“UNC Charlotte is next,” he said. “The first two days we were open, I sold out of their hats.
“Obviously, if a fan from Texas or Tennessee or Georgia came in here, it would be tough. You can’t buy two or three shirts. You’ve got to buy a box.”
nnnWells is a 1998 Salisbury High graduate who attended East Carolina but is a North Carolina basketball fan.
If UNC ó which defeated Washington State on Thursday night to reach the Elite Eight ó wins it all, the tent out front will return. There will be at least 500 “2008 National Championship” shirts with the score displayed in the store by lunch the next day.
What will that mean for Wells?
“I think I’m going to need some extra help,” he laughed.
He’s speaking from experience. When North Carolina won the ACC Tournament, his $11.25 shirts sold out in six hours.
“That has absolutely been our biggest seller,” Wells said.
Wells hasn’t ruled out another expansion.
It could happen. Fuller and Wells will put anything in their store that fans demand.
Shirts of local high schools, designed by Wells, are appearing, as well Carolina Panthers apparel.
“We call it Ultimate Sports Apparel because we didn’t want to dedicate it to just being a college store,” Wells said. “We want to leave ourselves room to grow.”
He points to the back of the store. “I’d lose my office,” he said, “but that wall can be knocked out.”
“We’ve had a lot of fun doing it,” Fuller added. “We’re tickled to death. Sales have been much more than we expected.”
Now, he’ll wait out the NCAA Tournament with a vested interest ó as a Tar Heel graduate and as a businessman.
“We were prepared for Carolina or Duke to win it all,” Fuller said.
“I’m still hoping Carolina comes through. If they do, we’ll be ready for it.”
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or email@example.com.