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Vaulting to business success

Ryan Carter

Ron Morris’ career is right on track, and he has firmly landed in

Burbank.

The former pole vaulter, who won a silver medal in the 1960

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Olympic Games in Rome, has watched his local business go from being

in a garage space to becoming a Burbank track-and-field sporting

goods business that last year pulled in more than $1 million.

In November, he and his staff will celebrate 25 years in business.

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“We’re not getting rich or anything, but it is a viable business

for us,” Morris said.

But after selling his first Bob Seagren signature Pacer III

vaulting pole in November 1978, Morris, a former head track coach and

physical education teacher at Cal State Los Angeles, feels

comfortable he has found his niche.

“You almost have to sell not just in the area, you have to sell

nationwide,” he said.

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With a mail-order catalog business, he managed to tap

track-and-field enthusiasts across the country.

It took a while -- not to mention a little notoriety and a nagging

awareness that it was difficult for track-and-field enthusiasts to

find the equipment they wanted for reasonable prices at larger

sporting goods franchises.

But Morris was a coach and a proven world-class athlete, so he had

connections. After all, this was, according to his resume, the sixth

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man to clear 15 feet in the pole vault event in 1956, and he was ranked by Track and Field News in 1978 as the second-best pole

vaulter in terms of length jumped in history. That, along with his

own innovations and experience, prompted the idea that he could share

his ideas about products with other coaches. It took a little

nudging, too.

“A friend was in the equipment business and said, ‘Why don’t you

give it a try?’ ” he said.

So, he sold the first vaulting pole and began getting the word out

about his garage business at his Burbank home. He even remembered a

time when basketball great Wilt Chamberlain bought equipment from

him.

In time, Morris was able to move to a larger warehouse and

published what he called a “half-baked” catalog in 1988. It was

distributed to school athletic programs nationwide.

“It took a while, but little by little, we grew,” he said.

Now, his online catalog of inventory consists of equipment for

everything from shotput and discus to javelin and hurdles.

He is trying to be contemporary while not sacrificing service, he

said.

“We have resisted shop cart technology on our Web site because we

like to talk to our customers and we like to coach our coaches,” said

Dana Morris, Morris’ daughter, who runs the advertising and

promotions wing of the business.

The business has also been getting into renting equipment to the

entertainment industry. Its new and vintage items have become fodder

for television, film and commercial shoots. The NBC drama “American

Dreams” used On Track period athletic equipment for the show.

Still, the business was an extension of the athletic world in

which Morris rose to the top during his youth.

“When I got out of the coaching end of it, I said to myself, ‘I’ve

been doing all my life, and I love the sport. How can I stay with

it?’ ”


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