Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Game over for iconic store
Couple retires after 33 years
After 33 years, Sweat Shack will close its doors tonight for the last time.
The owners of the iconic soccer store, Christine and Cavan O'Connor, are retiring.
The store at 3 St. Anne's Road, a cornerstone of Winnipeg's soccer community, will open for one more day: today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Today is also their 43rd wedding anniversary.
"We came here and all we wanted was to build a good life and I think we've done that," said Christine, 61. Cavan turned 65 last week. "We've enjoyed our lives here to the fullest and truly enjoyed the journey."
The couple moved to Winnipeg from Manchester, England, in 1974 with 13 pieces of luggage, their two-year-old son and a dream.
Soccer became their business, their recreation and part of the family along with their three sons, Brad, 41, Adam, 35, and Dylan, 22.
All three boys played the game. Cavan coached for more than 30 years, including the Sweat Shack women's team that Christine managed and the store sponsored. Christine was the first administrator of Canada's national women's soccer team when it formed in 1986 and served in numerous volunteer and administrative roles during the past 30 years. In 2010, Christine became the first woman to serve as president of the Manitoba Soccer Association and was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame as a builder.
"Everybody has been so nice, coming in to see us, one guy even cried," she said.
The store has been a meeting place and one of the best places in the province to get custom-made uniforms. When Winnipeg hosted the 1999 Pan Am Games, Sweat Shack was awarded the contract to make the Team Canada's uniforms, 6,000 pieces of which were worn to the opening and closing ceremonies.
Christine said friends and customers often gathered in the store to watch soccer on the store's many televisions.
"I remember during the 1986 World Cup I rented a big TV and had it set up in the store so I wouldn't miss any games and everybody came and brought their chairs and sat around," she said, laughing.
The couple had planned to retire later in the summer so they put the Sweat Shack building up for sale in mid-April. It sold in three weeks, expediting the retirement plans.
The new owner, a lawyer, wanted a quick possession, which is Friday.
"We accepted the offer quickly, before I changed my mind," Christine said, noting Cavan wanted to retire last year but she wasn't ready. "This last winter was so long, I just said to Cavan in February 'What are we doing? We could be away for the winter.' He said, 'Didn't I tell you that?' "
The couple will head to Florida for two weeks after Father's Day and then spend quality time this summer with their grandchildren: Keanna, 7, Axton, 6 and Finn, 2 1/2.
Left in the store is still about $40,000 inventory -- mostly fabric, shirts and pants -- which is being donated to the Red Road Lodge, Siloam Mission, a women's shelter and several other organizations.
"When you donate to something, you give bits of yourself away," Christine said. "This is kind of like we are giving little bits of Sweat Shack away all over the city."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2013 A2
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