MC Sports

Michigan-based MC Sports is closing its store on Verona Road. The 31,000-square-foot store opened in 2000 as part of the redevelopment of Nakoma Plaza that included the addition of Home Depot and Staples.

One of the original tenants of the revamped Nakoma Plaza is closing.

MC Sports, located between Home Depot and Staples at Verona Road and the Beltline, has started a going-out-of-business sale. The 31,000-square-foot store — which opened in 2000 — is scheduled to close by the end of May. The move ends a nearly 16-year-run for the Michigan-based retailer in the Madison market.

The decision appears to be the result of slumping sales, a growth in niche sports equipment retailers and the inability to work out a lease with the landlord, said Mitch Dorshorst, store manager.

“It’s never good news when you hear your business is closing,” said Dorshorst. “It’s been a staple in the strip mall, so it’ll be weird not having the store here.”

Nakoma Plaza was a $4 million, open-air shopping center with 200,000 square feet of retail when it opened in 1969 on 18 acres at the Beltline and what was then called Nakoma Road. Tenants included a 125,000-square-foot Arlan’s Department Store and a 25,000-square-foot National Food Store. Other tenants were Ben Franklin, Rennebohm Drugs, Northwest Fabrics and Aulik Cards, Gifts & Cameras.

In later years, the shopping center was home to a Prange Way, Toys R’ Us and Kohl’s Food Store, but in 1999 the center was razed to make way for a newly designed shopping center. Original tenants included the MC Sports, Home Depot, Staples, Cub Foods, JB’s Art & Craft Mall and Kirlin’s Hallmark.

MC Sports was founded in 1946 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Michigan Clothiers and sold men’s clothing and military surplus but in 1962 changed its name to MC Sporting Goods and focused on sporting equipment, footwear and apparel.

The company has 80 stores in seven states with nine locations in Wisconsin. In addition to Madison, the company has stores in Plover, Delavan, Kenosha, Sheboygan, West Bend, Manitowoc, Wisconsin Dells and Onalaska.

The Madison store employs 12 people, said Dorshorst, who grew up in Cobb, graduated from UW-Madison and coaches youth basketball. The store is also in a market with Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain and Cabela’s in addition to specialty sports retailers. They include the nearby Dorn Sporting Goods, that specializes in fishing, and Chalet Ski & Patio. There are also shops in the area that specialize in hockey, swimming, soccer, running, bow hunting and even curling.

“It’s pretty competitive,” said Dorshorst, 28. “Madison is very niche so it’s hard for a store that sells everything to compete. It’s hard to do it all.”

Escape room grows: Unable to keep up with demand, My Escape Mission is adding a second Madison location.

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The company opened a two-room operation in August at 1431 Regent St. near the UW-Madison campus and last month began remodeling a 6,000-square-foot space at 2044 S. Stoughton Road, located between Brothers Main Appliance & TV and Badger Fitness. The new location is scheduled to open March 1.

“We had so many people calling and we couldn’t book everybody and we had to turn people down,” said Rebekah Mast, a manager for the business, owned by her fiance. “We needed another location, so we could book everybody.”

Escape rooms offer a variety of themes and settings where customers are “locked” into a room and must find several clues that ultimately lead to an escape. Usually played in groups, players typically have 45 minutes to an hour to solve the clues.

Escape rooms have been popping up throughout Wisconsin. In Madison, they include Escape This, 120 E. Wilson, and Escape Chambers, 459 W. Gilman. Wilderness Resort in Lake Delton recently added two escape rooms with others in Milwaukee, Racine and in the northern Wisconsin community of Rice Lake.

My Escape Mission’s two rooms on Regent Street offer a CIA and an Area 51 theme. The Stoughton Road location will offer rooms based around a mad scientist, military espionage, a bank heist and an art gallery, Mast said. Admission is $30 per person with most groups finishing in 45 minutes. The quickest to finish was a group of engineers who completed the game in 35 minutes.

“For most people, its like a fantasy world and you’re stepping out of reality,” Mast said. “It’s like an adrenaline rush.”

Retail grant program approved: In September, I wrote in this space about plans for a city program that would provide grants to remodel the interior and exterior of buildings for retail use.

The program has been approved and is now seeking applicants along the State Street corridor, around the Capitol Square and on King Street.

The goal of the program, capped at $50,000 per applicant, is to improve retail space and make it viable for future retail tenants, too. The program is open to both building owners and tenants with leases of more than five years.

Eligible projects include heating, air conditioning and electrical improvements; the construction of customer restrooms, flooring, lighting, windows, doors and improvements to walls and ceilings. The grants would also cover loading dock, storage and store room repairs and construction but would not be approved for things like furniture, racks and shelving that can be easily removed, according to the guidelines of the program.

Applications for grants must be filed before any work is done, according to the program guidelines.

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Send retail-related tips and story ideas to badams@madison.com or call Barry Adams at 608-252-6148.