During June, Play It Again Sports (PIAS) Forest Park has partnered with Howard Brown for Pride Month, the first PIAS fundraiser owner Erich Krumrei has organized but definitely not the last. In fact, community involvement has been something Krumrei has talked about since he first signed the lease at 7443 Madison St.
When customers bring in sports equipment to sell to PIAS, which in turn will offer it for sale in the store, they can get cash or store credit.
But during June, which is Pride Month, customers can also donate some or all of the money from the equipment they sell to Howard Brown, a Chicago-based organization founded in 1974 that “exists to eliminate disparities in healthcare experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through research, education and the provision of services that promote health and wellness,” according to its website.
“I want to get tied into the community,” said Krumrei. “It’s a win-win. I get great gear to offer at reduced rates to people who might not be able to afford brand-new equipment. And people selling their equipment can choose to donate to nonprofits that benefit the community.”
(There’s actually an additional win, making it really a triple win situation, because people choosing to bring used equipment to PIAS can clear out their basements or garages.)
Earlier this year, when Krumrei and his wife Rachel Caskey took over the former Hallmark location to open PIAS, they told the Review that they wanted the store to be driven by community engagement and partnering with local nonprofits was already part of their plan.
Several months later, that goal is being realized. Krumrei said what he calls “tie-in fundraisers” are important to him because they’re a concrete way to make a difference and to get involved.
“For Pride Month, putting a sticker in the window to show support wasn’t enough for me,” Krumrei said. “I wanted to do something actionable.”
PIAS is a franchise, bound by rules and regulations on a corporate level. But there is no requirement to work with nonprofits; that’s something Krumrei decided to do on his own.
Beyond June, he plans to partner with other local organizations in what he calls “a mutually beneficial arrangement,” in which he can “turn quality used sports equipment into dollars for nonprofits.”
Tentative plans include a monthly fundraiser for different nonprofits as well as fundraising drives both big and small. A drive, for example, might be a partnership with a local sports team or entire league for a week or weekend.
“Our ears are open,” said Krumrei, and that applies not just to nonprofits but also to what the community needs in terms of sports equipment. For example, Krumrei said he heard from the Oak Park and River Forest field hockey coach that getting girls’ equipment can be difficult, so he expanded the field hockey section in the Forest Park store.
“How can I help? What do you need?” are questions Krumrei said are at the heart of his business.
PIAS Forest Park has also partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago, which regularly picks up equipment that the store doesn’t purchase but customers still want to donate. PIAS might not purchase an item that doesn’t have a great resale value, but people can donate the equipment, and the Epilepsy Foundation uses it to help run programs and keep them free, such as camp for kids and support groups for caregivers.
Finding a “home” for equipment through the Epilepsy Foundation is part of the store’s work in sustainability, an essential aspect of the chain’s mission. “Reuse. Recycle. Replay” is a tenet of the stores on a corporate level, and that applies to more than finding new uses for previously owned sports gear.
Employee uniform shirts are created from 100 percent recycled fabric. In Forest Park, the floor of PIAS is made from recycled tire rubber. And Krumrei has partnered with the River Forest Tennis Club to collect used tennis balls, which will be recycled into a tennis court through the Recycle Balls program.
PIAS Forest Park is open to people selling or donating sports equipment; Krumrei is waiting on word from corporate on when the store can open to people purchasing gear.
For more information, visit playitagainsports.com/locations/forest-park-il.