It was over 90 years ago, in 1923 when Maurice Olshansky, after immigrating to America, founded our company.
Now a fourth generation business, Maurice may not have imagined that his pushcart and small storefront on Chicago’s Maxwell St. would have evolved into the sophisticated, high-tech sporting goods distributorship that it has become today.
As cliché as it sounds, this is the great American story - a story of resourcefulness, family, the value of relationships and ultimately – success. Our family-owned history is further entwined with the family-owned vendor and chain store history of the U.S., and now, through four generations, our company’s character remains inseparable from the spirit of its founder.
Explore Our Company History
Learn more about our company's history by viewing our 90th Anniversary Video or scrolling through our historical timeline below.
Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the turmoil and danger forced many people to leave the country for their own safety. Maurice Olshansky, at about the age of 19, and his brother set out across the mountains between the Ukraine and Romania at night. It was a very dangerous trek and at some point, the boys became separated, never to see one another again. Maurice managed to make it across Europe to a ship bound for America. He settled in Chicago and worked in a pickle factory for two years, saving every penny by walking to work and allowing no luxuries save for an éclair cut into pieces that lasted all week.
In those days many people eeked out a living by buying and selling various items at a small profit. Maurice had an interest in music and musical instruments and began buying and selling musical instruments on Maxwell Street in Chicago, and eventually began buying and selling sporting goods as well. He sold his products from a pushcart like many new Americans in Chicago did in those days.
After meeting and marrying Mae, Maurice eventually opened a very small storefront on Chicago’s Maxwell Street. He started to sell musical instruments to various schools in the neighborhood and noticed that they wore uniforms. His wife Mae started to sew band uniforms which Maurice sold and that led to basketball uniforms, shorts and other kinds of uniforms for sports. Maurice saw that he could sell the schools sports equipment too and pretty soon he was in the sporting goods business, making more money in sporting goods than in the musical instrument business.
THE DEPRESSION ERA
As in any time of depression or recession, people turn to inexpensive pastimes like fishing or ball games. Maurice’s Sporting Goods did well during this time because the products he sold were inexpensive and recreational in nature. With so many people out of work, recreational activities like fishing and even hunting, provided pleasure and sometimes food for the table. Games and ball sports were also popular so Maurice was able to capitalize on these trends by providing the products his customers wanted.
1930’s AND 40’s
The company evolved from a retailer on Maxwell Street to a multiple store operation throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. For a very long time there were only a handful of employees, so everyone worked very hard to build the business, build relationships and keep the business going.
Maurice and Mae had two sons, Harold and Melvin, and a daughter, Faye. Each of whom would become an integral part of the business.
(Harold officially joined the business in 1946)
1950’s AND 60’s
Maurice’s oldest son Harold worked in the business from a very young age and eventually took over as president in 1964 after Maurice retired. Daughter Fay’s husband Frank Katlin also joined the business (1956) and soon Maurice’s younger son Melvin, who went to school and became an attorney, would join the company. During the 50’s and 60’s it was Maurice, Harold, Melvin and Frank, each with unique talents and business acumen, running and managing the company. Harold was the business manager, running the day-to-day, year-to-year operations. Frank was the sales executive and Melvin had a love for the product and was the buying agent. It was also during this time period that the focus of the business evolved into wholesaling sporting goods products, primarily team equipment to schools.
In the early-to-mid 60’s, Sears Roebuck Company came to Maurice Sporting Goods, asked if they could source product for them, and made them an official vendor. This was Maurice Sporting Goods’ foray into the fishing tackle and products business, which opened up the wholesale business to emerging multiple-store retailers. At the time, most wholesalers were used to dealing with independent retailers throughout the country, so the leaders of Maurice Sporting Goods went in a completely different direction and pursued businesses like Sears, S.S. Kresge, Tops, Arlans and Walmart. Maurice Sporting Goods had turned the corner from being a smaller independent distribution company selling to local dealers to seeing the future in some of these larger retail operations.
1970’s AND 80’s
Maurice Sporting Goods moved from its Armitage Avenue location in Chicago to a 120,000 sq. ft. warehouse and office building in Northbrook, IL. The company’s next expansion was to Atlanta in 1973, building a 100,000 sq. ft. warehousing facility. This was followed by expansion to Dallas, TX in 1976 and Harrisburg, PA in 1988.
Technology became a critical factor during this time when Maurice Sporting Goods was the first sporting goods distribution company to computerize, putting in an IBM System 3, installed in the mid 70’s. They were also the first to make extensive use of plan-o-grams, to pre-ticket items and to provide regional satellite warehouses. By collecting and analyzing sales data they were better able to adjust and plan for the seasonality and regionality that made each storefront unique. No other distributor came close to meeting the needs of both the retailer and the retailer’s end customer like “Maurice”.
In 1986, Jory Katlin, son of Frank and Faye (Olshansky) Katlin, grandson of Maurice Olshansky, took over as CEO. Third generation and still going strong, the company had expanded its base of storefronts to over 5,000. Field representatives were carrying handheld devices to collect sales and inventory data and transmitting that data back to analysts, and the departments of category management, merchandising, purchasing, supply chain, inventory replenishment and the sales team.
The company’s work force expanded to over 500 very knowledgeable and dedicated associates. Investments to improve customer service included the most advanced computer software and hardware information systems. Continued growth through acquisitions of other distributors and manufacturers, expansion to Reno, NV in 1991 and Toronto, Canada in 1994, brought the distribution centers to a total of 6 with over 500,000 sq. ft. of space. These facilities provided quick turn-around and delivery to all of the United States and Canada.
The opportunity to take their successful business model to Canada and open the North Division business unit in Toronto became a tremendous success serving among others, two of the largest outdoor goods retailers in Canada, Canadian Tire and Walmart Canada.
In 1996 Maurice corporate offices moved to a new International Headquarters just steps from their original Northbrook, IL location. Adjacent to the new building is a 1.5 acre stocked pond with fishing pier. The previous headquarters serves as the mid-western distribution center. As the largest sporting goods distributor in the world, Maurice was doing vigorous business in Europe, the Far East and South America as well.
CEO Jory Katlin’s brother Andy, and cousin Michael Olshansky, two more grandsons of Maurice Olshansky, joined the business in the capacities of V.P. of New Channel Development and Chief Technology Officer, respectively. With this team in place the company’s character continued to be one of open-mindedness – always looking for different avenues, going down different paths, being resourceful and executing quickly when opportunities arose.
2000’s - PRESENT
Advances in technology that Maurice has employed have always kept us one step ahead of the needs of our retail and vendor partners. From development of a massive, 65,000 sku business-to-business website to next generation Motorola handheld units in the hands of all 200+ field representatives, these initiatives have reached out to service the independent dealers and enhanced relationships with our mass-merchant and multi-store retailers.
To better serve the national Walmart account, in 2002 Maurice opened an office in Bentonville, AR, home of Walmart, and in 2004, Maurice acquired Western-Hoegee, a leading West Coast sporting goods wholesaler based in Glendale, California. The b2b website was redeveloped in 2005 with an even greater selection of products, more images and useful information to make ordering quick and efficient.
In March of 2009, Maurice Sporting Goods proudly opened a 7th office. The new facility in Miami, FL, features a 2,500 square foot state-of-the-art showroom staffed with hardworking, customer focused, bilingual staff. This new Miami office addition makes Maurice Sporting Goods seven offices strong, covering all corners of the United States and Canada while allowing us to serve the Florida, Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South American markets even better.
Also in 2009, Maurice relocated its Canada operation to a new state of the art 150,000 sq. ft. distribution center and office, doubling the previous distribution capacity. The building features numerous green investments such as motion activated lighting, low volume plumbing, and increased recycling capacity. Serving over 2000 storefronts in Canada, shipping to all 10 provinces and 3 territories, this expanded distribution center showcased Maurice’s commitment to the Canadian market.
For Maurice Sporting Goods, opening an office in China was always a goal and in 2010 that goal became a reality with the opening of our office in Kunshan, a new development area just west of Shanghai. This represents a major milestone for Maurice.
After having been active in Asia sourcing products since the 60’s as a result of Melvin Olshansky’s pioneering efforts, this new office truly gives Maurice the “boots on the ground” to grow and maximize the Asian supply chain. This office will allow us to be closer to our supply sources and improve our relationships.
The talented China Office team has four main functions:
• Sourcing • P.O. Supply Chain Management
• Quality Control • Packaging Design
Prior to 2010, plans had been in the works to formalize a Maurice division that would handle private brand development and product sourcing as well as reaching out to the international/global sporting goods retail community. This division is Big Game International, with more than 40 years of experience in the development, sourcing and manufacturing of products that encompass all sporting goods categories.
In 2011 Maurice acquired Redl Sports Distributors, an outdoor sporting goods company located in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. As part of our long-term commitment to the Canadian marketplace, this acquisition allows us to service Canada more efficiently coast-to-coast. Redl and Maurice have both enjoyed serving the outdoor sporting goods market in Canada for decades as family-owned businesses. This partnership allows us to work together for the benefit of our customers, our employees, our business partners, and the outdoor sporting goods communities that we serve and support every day.
Maurice currently has over 750 associates, including more than 200 field representatives, offers over 65,000 SKUs and sells to markets in North America, Europe, South America and the Pacific Rim.
In November 2013 Maurice / Redl moved into a new state of the art, 75,000 sq. foot distribution center located in Pitt Meadows, BC, just outside Vancouver.