'Our Dreams are Big'
Staff Writer | May 26, 2022 1:07 AM
COEUR d’ALENE — This week's demolition of what used to be home to Black Sheep Sporting Goods might have left Dave Knoll feeling a little down. After all, he owned it.
Not at all.
“My reflection on that building coming down was a positive one,” he said Tuesday as he drove a cart around the Silver Lake Mall.
And the reason for that, he explained, is because it first belonged to a competitor that opened in 2007.
“We overcame it and ended up with their building,” Knoll said, smiling.
It worked out well for Black Sheep.
They operated out of that 50,000-square-foot store off Government Way and Neider Avenue for nearly eight years until 2021.
“Business was really, really good,” Knoll said. “There were some great years there.”
But they had bigger plans that required some risks.
They sold the building to Costco for an undisclosed amount, which in turn this week began tearing it down to make way for expanded parking.
“We wanted to advance the company by having more room, so the opportunity came when Costco bought that building from us and enabled us to go buy the mall,” Knoll said.
The Knolls are longtime locals who have operated retail stores throughout the Northwest for many years. Dave and Barbara are perhaps best known as the owners of Black Sheep Sporting Goods, which was founded in 1975 in Coeur d’Alene.
They bought the struggling Silver Lake Mall in early 2021, and moved Black Sheep Sporting Goods there in place of JC Penney, which closed last year. The site was gutted and remodeled.
Their long-stated goal has been to bring new life to the ailing mall, help businesses thrive, make it a great shopping experience and showcase products.
With son Brian Knoll running the show as general manager, they are confident in their path.
“It was a little bit scary coming out of the chute not knowing if we would have our customers follow,” Dave Knoll said. “But it's been a total positive. Our sales are up.“
The pinnacle of their efforts is coming up soon as they celebrate Black Sheep’s new 100,000-square-foot home that has about 100 employees.
They are gearing up for a grand opening party June 10-12. It will be a weekend of family activities, prizes, music and guest appearances.
Industry professionals and outdoor product leaders like Mossberg, Hornaday and Berkeley will be on hand. Celebrities will talk about hunting and fishing.
Knoll said they are expecting more than 10,000 people.
"It should be a great time," he said.
Knoll is proud of the many awards displayed on shelves near his desk that Black Sheep has earned over the years.
He quickly summarizes its history:
“The original Black Sheep was 2,000 square feet. It was knocked down to make way for a 5,000-square-foot store. And then, five years later, we built a 20,000-square-foot store with a 10,000-square-foot extension. And then we moved from that location into our building that was torn down, 50,000 feet, and now we're in our 330,000-square-foot mall. So we've grown and as Brian loves to say, we've put every dollar that we made back into our company.”
As he cruises the mall, Dave Knoll is wearing a black cowboy hat and a vest. He wears a nametag that reads, "Mall Daddy.” It is his moniker, one that he clearly likes.
Friendly and talkative, he greets tenants and customers with smiles, compliments and conversation.
“We have great security,” he says as he nods toward a security officer.
"Angila, pose for a picture," he says to Angila Gleason, store manager at Harry Ritchie's Jewelers.
She does, along with assistant manager Dominique Shedenhelm.
The mall is humming most days. It is filled with businesses.
“There were 12 dark spaces in here when we took over,” Knoll said. “They're all full.”
How did they pull that off?
“Just from the good vibes of Black Sheep,” Knoll said. “A pillar in the community. That and hard work.”
It is home to Planet Fitness where Sears once stood, and Macy’s remains an anchor tenant.
Recent arrivals include Bear Paw Cookies, Macadamia Coffee and Memory Gems.
Water World, also owned by the Knolls, is under construction at the east end of the mall, and will feature everything related to water activities.
“We're gonna do a ton of business in the water sports,” Knoll said. “We sell 6,000 inner tubes every year and 1,000 kayaks."
The Knolls are firm believers in concept stores that offer a specific line of products, such as Knives and Optics, Hydration Station and American Heritage, all of which are Black Sheep stores.
“When you go into a concept store, your focus is on buying a particular product,” Knoll said.
He is proud of Black Sheep’s influence.
“This is the heartbeat of the mall, right here," he said. "It brings the people in. Everybody’s business is up since we’ve been here."
Their work is not done.
Knoll hopes to attract a few big names in the food industry to the mall property along Government Way and Canfield Avenue, like In-N-Out Burger and Chick fil-A. Trader Joe's is on his wish list.
“Our dreams are big,” he said.
Even for his golf cart.
He'll soon be driving a new, six-passenger model, bigger and better.
“I’ll be giving people rides all over,” he said, laughing.