COLORADO SPRINGS – The shelves are emptying fast at Prime Time Sports, and the reality is sinking in for longtime owner Stephen Martin.
“I started with 10,000 and a little kiosk in the center of the mall in 1998. Good year to start. That was the year the Broncos first one the Super Bowl–and I happened to start the business then,” Martin recalled. “I’ve grown that from one little cart into this. And now it’s just empty.”
Martin teared up as he looked around at the store, pointing out how much discounted apparel had already been sold.
“It’s like having your 21-year-old only child getting nuked to death… or maybe I should say ‘Nike’d’ to death?” he said with a smile.
Staff say the phone has not stopped ringing, since News5’s story went viral last week.
“We had it unplugged. It’s plugged in now, though,” Martin said laughing.
The worst calls and accusations came the first few days, from people across the country.
“I am not a racial bigot. That’s the one that hurt the most,” Martin told News5.
“I fully support Brandon Marshall and Colin Kaepernick’s cause. I think racial, social injustice in the judicial system is very real. I just have never thought the way/method of delivery is correct,” he added.
But inside the store, it’s been a steady stream of support–according to staff.
“I think it’s good he stuck to what he wanted to do. He always said he’d stay true to himself and that’s what he did–until the very end,” said longtime customer Branden Moreles.
“I took all the rest of the flags that they had and the majority of the [Raiders] jersey,” he added.
Prime Time Sports expects to run out of merchandise before mid-March.
“I’ll have to find a new job. I have kids to support. I’ll just take my references with me and find something new,” said store Manager Eddy Hardwick.
He may not have to go far, though.
Martin says the store has a potential buyer, interested in re-hiring the current staff.
“There’s a real good chance the whole crew will stay with him if we can expedite this thing quick enough.”
Martin says if that new buyer does come in, it’s likely Nike will be back on the racks. He would plan on changing the name of the store, too.
When asked if that would be tough to see a brand new name and rack full of Nike clothing, he responded “absolutely.”
But Martin still stands by his business decision.
“I’ve got to live with me the rest of my life. I preserved myself to be the man I want to retire with. I chose principle over profit.”