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Small Long Beach Soccer Shop Trying To Survive

Isaac Zambrano knew that unexpected bad news at his primary job last month would mean more problems for his small business in the near future.

“As soon as the schools closed I knew we would suffer,” Zambrano said. “Everyone was very eager for the spring season at the parks. Now we need to change it up.”

Zambrano, 51, has worked for the Long Beach Unified School District for 25 years, and has been a Spanish teacher at Millikan High for the last 12 years. The Yanhuitlan Oaxaca, Mexico, native also owns the Soccer Warehouse in Long Beach, where he’s been selling soccer and other sporting equipment for the last decade.

“It’s a very stable business,” Zambrano said. “Soccer is a specialized sport so our buyers are more limited, and mostly it’s families getting their kids into soccer.”

Last month, the LBUSD announced it would be closing because of the COVID-19 concerns. California ordered the closure of nonessential business not too long after. Zambrano said his store has been locked up for three weeks, and he only has enough saved up to survive for about three months in the current conditions.

“We have no revenue,” Zambrano said. “The bank isn’t waiting on the landlord, so we still have to pay the rent regardless if we have revenue or not.”

Last week, CNBC reported that approximately 30 percent of small, independent American retailers will never reopen. Congress is looking for ways to avoid the almost inevitable economic repercussions of these closures, but Zambrano knows he needs to find a way to stay afloat so he’s exploring the internet.

“We don’t do internet sales because it’s another job in and of itself, but we need to modify the way we sell things,” Zambrano said. “We’re working on having a presence on the internet because that’s where some of our business is going to go because obviously people want to avoid going in public.”

Zambrano predicts that a small boost from internet sales could get his business into the final quarter of the year. However, he knows the challenges involved because the Soccer Warehouse tried to create a website earlier this year and ran into logistical issues.

“It’s another aspect to the business,” Zambrano said. “It’s not like you can just sell. The shipping, the returns and the pricing are all key.”

Recently, Zambrano lost money on the sale of a soccer goal because the size and shape of the goal made the shipment more expensive than the actual product.

“It seems easy, but you have to deal everything because now your dealing with bigger stores who have more products and more storage,” Zambrano said.

Taking its products to the internet also puts the Soccer Warehouse up against smaller business from other parts in the country who can afford cheaper prices.

“Obviously the rent here is more expensive than a place in the Midwest or Arizona where they can have huge warehouses and house more product and equipment,” Zambrano said.

There are some advantages to being a small sports equipment business because they’re not dealing with a massive bottom line. The bigger, more recognizable sporting goods stores get products from companies like Nike and Adidas, but they have to pay for them. That will be very hard to do currently, and its an overhead that Zambrano’s business doesn’t have.

“That’s a big cost for them,” Zambrano said. “I don’t know what they can do if Nike and Adidas want that money now.”

The Soccer Warehouse is a family owned business, so Zambrano has been able to figure out how to compensate his employees like his own daughter, Jasmine.

“We’re like a pillar of the community for good living,” Zambrano said. “It’s not like other business.”

Millikan soccer coach Rod Petkovic, who recently retired after starting the Rams program over 30 years ago, said that Zambrano is a quality co-worker and great friend.

“(Soccer Warehouse) is the best service and prices anywhere,” Petkovic said. “He knows that our budget is low so he makes sure that he can provide service for our teams that we can afford.”

Zambrano has played soccer his entire life, and just used his knowledge of the sport to start his business. He also sells equipment to AYSO as well as training shirts and uniforms to local park leagues.

“We contribute to community by promoting healthy living and getting people to interact,” Zambrano said.

He said he hopes to have The Soccer Warehouse website up and running as soon as possible.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.