President's Message: History Tells a Story

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 5/15/24 3:19 PM

Kenyon Gleason, NASGW President

If I told you the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers wasn’t even started by wholesalers, would you believe me?

Well, as a matter of fact, it’s true. The founders of what is today known as NASGW, were in the publishing business, not the wholesale business. In fact, the original idea for the creation of NASGW came about because the owners of “The Sporting News,” the Spink family of St. Louis, were also publishing two directories that were specifically related to the business of sporting goods and retail. Published monthly was “The Sporting Goods Dealer,” which highlighted products across the wide spectrum of what you might find in a sporting goods store in the early 1900’s, everything from golf clubs to bats and balls, fishing tackle to guns and ammunition, and of course everything you can imagine in between.

The second publication, which was sent annually to all subscribers of “The Sporting Goods Dealer,” was “The Sporting Goods Trade Directory.” As the name indicates, the trade directory was a listing of products, manufacturers and the “jobbers” who moved those goods across the country. It allowed dealers a closer look at all the products they needed for their store shelves and from whom they could buy them.

An announcement listing from the publishers in the 1920 edition of the directory indicated, “Our list of jobbers which appears in THE DIRECTORY is absolutely authentic, compiled through the co-operation of many of the largest manufacturers in various representative lines.” The editors went on to claim this “…new edition of THE SPORTING GOODS TRADE DIRECTORY will be found to be the best ever published. No expense, time or labor has been spared in revising it thoroughly, bringing it absolutely up to the minute. It lists completely the thousands of articles that go into the stock of the live sporting goods dealer, carefully arranged and cross-indexed so that manufacturers of each article can be found at a moment's notice.”

So they weren’t wholesalers themselves, but somewhere along their journey, our founders clearly realized the directories they were publishing were not enough, that networking and personal relationships were growing ever more important as sales models changed and technology advanced. This was the genesis for the formation in 1954 of The Sporting Goods Jobbers Association. Our founders Charles C. Johnson Spink, owner of “The Sporting News” and the Charles C. Spink and Son company, along with Hugo Autz (who worked for Spink) and Douglas B. Remmers, a prominent St. Louis attorney, devised the idea for an association focused on the activities of those in the wholesale and distribution business, or as known at the time, “jobbers.”

What very quickly followed was an organization which grew, developed and flourished under the leadership of jobbers from across the country. The organization’s first chairman was W. D. Robinson of the Robinson Company from 1954-1956. He’s been followed roughly every two to three years by a new chairman from the wholesale community. In many cases, multiple people from the same company have served as NASGW chairman. And in a couple cases it’s been all in the family. We had the father/son combination of W. L. Baumler and Jack Baumler at the helm and of course in the most recent past, a father/daughter combination of Richard Lipsey and his daughter Laurie Lipsey Aronson. Some of our member companies have been active and involved for decades.

In 1962, the name of our organization was changed to more specifically identify the intention of the association as a national voice for wholesale distribution in the sporting goods industry. So we became the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers and it’s stayed that way ever since.

In 1969, after its 59th edition, the Charles C. Spink Company stopped publishing “The Sporting Goods Trade Directory” and by default, the NASGW, and its member wholesalers, became the personification of that former directory and the idea our founders had of creating an organization that would embody that directory and its purpose.

In an effort to spread and promote the services of wholesalers in a new way, the NASGW created “The Hunting Show.” The show began in 1974 and officially took on the name of “NASGW Expo and Annual Meeting” in 2004. In the words of Chairman Kelly Munson in 1974, “The hunting industry has long needed an early manufacturer/wholesaler planning and "meeting of the minds" session. We are eager for this opportunity to improve communication and cooperation among manufacturers and wholesalers, for the preservation of hunting in our nation, and for the benefit of our industry and individual companies.”

NASGW was on track to celebrate its 50th show last year in Columbus, but with covid forcing the cancelation of the event in 2020, it means we will celebrate our Golden Expo this year in Kansas City, Missouri, just down the road from where we first got started in St. Louis, all those years ago.

While the focus of NASGW has adjusted slightly over time, just like the scope and services the organization offers, our mission remains remarkably similar to what our founders envisioned way back in 1954, and even prior to that. As pointed out, again from “The Sporting Goods Trade Directory” in 1920, “Our aim is to facilitate the production and sale of sporting goods.” It’s what “jobbers” did back then. It’s what “wholesalers” do today.

The world of wholesale distribution has clearly changed a little in delivery methods and technology. But on the flip side, we’ve also stayed the same. Relationships, networking, education, advocacy and promotion of the sporting goods industry is what got us started as an association and it remains who we are today. That’s the backbone of this organization and the foundation on which we’re built. Our history tells a story, and our book is getting a pretty important chapter this year with this milestone Expo event. We hope you’ll help us write the chapter and be a part of this continued story.

I’m so looking forward to seeing old and new friends in Kansas City in October for our 50th Expo celebration. Our golden anniversary of the show, in now our 71st year of operation, is a testament to the great work of all those who’ve come before and the continued efforts of the leadership we currently have at NASGW. Registration is open and booths are nearly sold out once again. It promises to be another great NASGW event.

As an aside… the team is working on a commemorative 50th Expo directory. Some of you might remember we used to publish a printed booklet each year. We’re going to roll back the clock a bit this year, in celebration and in remembrance of those often sought after booklets. Nowadays we use an app on your phone to convey most of that information, but for just this year, we’ll be printing a booklet once again. We’ll be sending more details about the directory in the coming days so stay tuned.

Until next time,


Kenyon Gleason
NASGW President

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