October 2010


Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: John Brackett

“Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.”

We all know what happened to poor old Fredo in the end.

That’s the kind of thing that usually comes to my mind when I hear the words family and business used in the same sentence…lines from The Godfather. But then, I’m probably just a little bit weirder than the rest of you.

With that, I lead you into the story of a local family business—actually, two businesses—that will leave you (and me) with a significantly warmer, fuzzier feeling.

To set the scene, Jim Buser and his sister, Kathy Bradford, own and operate Sports Addiction, the sports and fitness outfitter in Bluffton’s Sheridan Park. Jim and his wife, Marri, own and operate Island Bagel Company’s two locations: one on Hilton Head at South Island Square and the other in Bluffton, also in Sheridan Park.

Jim and Kathy realized a shared dream of running a business together when they opened Sports Addiction. Any sibling rivalry? Not here. “We’ve always been very close,” said Kathy. That’s important…getting along. But in terms of experience and skills that each brings to the table, this Oklahoma born and raised pair have a formula that’s not likely to miss the mark, and their paths always seemed destined to converge.

Jim came to Hilton Head in 1987 to train and compete professionally as a triathlete. Between then and the time that he and Kathy opened Sports Addiction, he founded (with now-South Carolina State Representative Bill Herbkersman) the Cycle Center bicycle shop and grew it into an eight-location chain throughout the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire. He sold that business and went into food & beverage, opening the original Hilton Head Brewing Company, among other establishments.

Kathy joined her brother in the Lowcountry, bringing along a solid business acumen of her own. She had been in Bakersfield, California opening new plants for Frito-Lay—her first job out of college. “I wasn’t happy in California, though,” she said. “Bakersfield was like ‘Little Oklahoma’ to me. So when Jim suggested that I move to Hilton Head, it was a no-brainer.” She helped launch another Hilton Head bicycle shop (that is still in business today), and, although they were not partners yet, Kathy chipped in with some bookkeeping and accounting for Jim’s business interests.

After Jim sold his restaurant businesses, he and Kathy opened Sports Addiction in 2002. Frankly, as a guy who has gotten pretty used to poking at my Blackberry to order some new running shorts or a pair of socks online, I had to ask, why a sporting goods store now? “There was nothing here in terms of sporting goods,” said Jim, excluding golf of course. Nevertheless, it seemed kind of anachronistic to me until I walked into the store and it started to make sense.

First thing is the smell, that strange mixture of leather and rubber that took me back to when I was a kid growing up in Birmingham, Michigan, where we got all of our sports stuff at The Varsity Shop, a homey, cluttered little shop on the corner of Pierce and Merrill Streets. This is where you went to get your cleats and mouth guard for football season and pick up your baseball uniform in the springtime.

Sports Addiction is a lot bigger and better organized than the old Varsity Shop, but the sensation is there. “It’s about a guy, like me, who wants to come in and try on a shoe or swing a bat,” said Jim. No golf clubs to swing, though. “We’ve got everything in here but golf.” That’s pretty well covered in these parts, but for everything else: baseball, football, running, fitness, basketball, cycling, soccer—you name it—it’s there.

“We’re here for the people who want to come in and feel and touch,” Jim said, and who want good, friendly, personal service at and after the sale. That’s something you don’t get shopping online or at mega retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods (which we don’t have in the immediate area anyway). It’s especially important for equipment that requires a lot of maintenance and service, like bicycles or fitness machines. If you purchase a bike or a treadmill, for example, Sports Addiction is there for service and support. “We’ll even come out to your home to build a basketball goal in the driveway.”

While Jim is busy taking care of our sporting goods needs, his wife Marri is running things at Island Bagel Co. Breakfast and Lunch Café, just across the street from Sports Addiction or on Hilton Head at South Island Square. Jim and Marri purchased the former Woody’s Darn Good Bagels from friends a year ago, and the same philosophy of good service and quality applies.

“The first thing Marri and I did was up the labor,” said Jim. How often have you heard that in recent years? “You’re never going to be waiting 15 minutes for a bagel.” Make that a fresh-baked bagel. Nothing is brought in frozen at Island Bagel. “Our baker, Antonio, comes in at 3:30 every morning to bake the bagels fresh for both stores,” said Marri. “He’s been doing that since it was the Chesapeake Bagel Company.”

It’s not only bagels, though, that you won’t have to wait for, because Island Bagel isn’t just for breakfast anymore. “I added ‘Breakfast & Lunch Café’ to our name so people know that we’re not just bagels and breakfast,” Marri said. “We’re not actually a deli, but we’ve got paninis and subs, soups and salads, and I want people to know that we’re a good place for lunch.”

A quick look at the menu is enough to tell you that this is not just a bagels and coffee shop. In addition to 16 fresh, baked-from-scratch bagel flavors and 10 cream cheese varieties, if you should wander in at lunchtime you’ll find plenty of choices, including 13 specialty sandwiches. How does a Steak & Egg Sandwich made with sliced prime rib sound? Perhaps you’d prefer an Italian Panini or a Mega Veggie.

Island Bagel is Marri’s first foray into business ownership. How does one who is more accustomed to a less physically demanding office environment suddenly adjust to the always-on-your-feet rigors of restaurant ownership? She says it’s the people. “We have great employees, which definitely makes it better. They have passion for their work and they have fun with the customers.”

Being in a family business helps too. “With a husband who owns a sports store,” she said, “I’ll always have a good pair of shoes for work!”

Sports Addiction is located at 70 Pennington Drive in the Village at Sheridan Park. Call (843) 815-8281 or visit online at sportsaddiction.us.

Island Bagel Co. has two locations: on Hilton Head Island at 841 William Hilton Parkway in South Island Square and in Bluffton at the Village at Sheridan Park. Call (843) 686-3353 or visit on Facebook at facebook.com/IslandBagel.

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