Sports and community spirit are inseparable entities when referring to the Sas family who run a family-owned business from a location on Main Street where it has been growing and evolving for 40 years.
Sas-Kam Sportsman has built a solid reputation with repeat-customer business and was founded by Wayne Sas in October of 1978, when he was fresh out of high school.
Sas has an all-encompassing philosophy that has translated into success in the Kamsack business community and has earned his business a fine reputation across Canada: “Treat people like I want to be treated.” It was the work ethic Sas learned from his father, Mike Sas, who ran Kamsack Lumber and Concrete for thirty years.
Quality product is number one at the sporting goods store, which can boast repeat customers from across the country. “We also pride ourselves on excellent customer service at the store.
The price is long forgotten after the quality is remembered,” said Sas, owner and visionary behind the business.
“Keeping up with trends, knowing what is new and hot, and being in a rural area where overhead is low, we remain competitive,” he said in 1998 as he celebrated 20 years in business, and he echoed those words with the same conviction while preparing to celebrate 40 years in business on October 28, the anniversary of the store opening its doors in 1978.
“We’ve been great since ’78,” is the slogan that Sas uses to describe the business on its website.
Although Sas-Kam is a thriving business with a million-dollar inventory and a fine reputation that extends across the country, 40 years ago some would have had difficulty predicting its growth and success.
“After my first year in business, my accountant asked me if this was really what I wanted to do.”
Born and raised in Kamsack, the son of Mike and Sylvia Sas, Wayne, it was hoped, would follow his father in retail by going into business with him at Kamsack Lumber and Concrete.
Indeed, for the first year after graduating from the Kamsack Collegiate Institute in 1977, he did work at the lumber yard, but while still in high school he had also worked with Bill Kryklywicz who had operated the Outdoorsman, a sporting goods store in Kamsack where Sas learned about ski mounting and skate sharpening.
“Sports has been my life,” he said.
In 1978 he was a member of the Team Saskatchewan baseball team that placed fourth at the Canada Summer Games in St. John’s, Nfld. He played first base with the Melville Millionaires Junior baseball team during the four years that the team won the provincial championship.
He was captain of the Saskatchewan handball team. That’s a sport that registered only 130 players in total in Saskatchewan after being initiated by former resident Barry Stinson, and the team competed in Quebec where 130,000 players were registered, and held its own. The next year, the team placed fifth in Prince George, B.C., then won a bronze medal in Regina.
In 1976 and 77, Sas played goal for a short period for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, the Melville Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior hockey league, with the Cote Chiefs, a Junior B team and with the Kamsack Flyers, minor and senior hockey teams.
While still in high school he was captain of the volleyball and basketball teams which made it to the provincial finals.
With these sound sporting credentials, with the contacts they bought him and with retail business in his background, Sas opened Sas-Kam Sportsman on October 28, 1978, in a small, 1,000-square foot room on First Street in the Boychuk Block, where the Kamsack Times is located. He opened his doors with $24,000 in stock.
Sas was in the building for only a month before moving to the building on Main Street vacated by the Robinson’s store, where he has been for the past 40 years.
Within five years the business demanded Sas construct a 35-foot by 30-foot warehouse in the back, and within 10 he purchased the adjoining building, once a grocery store, and expanded into it.
Jeff Parnetta, an employee, began running a silk screening operation in the upper level of the second building, which is now run by Sas’ son Morgan.
Although Sas didn’t step into his father’s shoes at the lumber yard, his father was supportive of him in the sporting goods business.
He also had the support of his wife, Marina (nee Hooper), whom he married just six months after opening Sas-Kam.
Together the couple has three children, two of whom now work alongside their father in the sporting goods store, and eight grandchildren, six of whom live in Kamsack. “Marina’s support behind the scenes has been a huge contribution to the success of the business,” said Sas.
In the beginning about 70 per cent of the business had been supplying teams with clothing and equipment. “It’s also extremely important to this business that Duck Mountain Provincial Park is so close by.”
Twenty years ago Sas recalled the first time he sold Vuarnet sunglasses which sold at $120 a pair in 1981. He began by selling two pair, and ended up selling 120 in the first year.
“Suppliers in Montreal couldn’t believe how many we sold here in Kamsack.”
High-quality items have always been the mainstay of the business.
In the late 1980s Sas expanded the business to a second store in the Broadway Mall in Yorkton, and operated there for about five years. As the mall began to empty, but before it eventually closed, Sas decided to close the store.
“It was more important for me to have a life,” he said, but has no regrets about the Yorkton endeavour.
“The big draw about doing business in rural Saskatchewan is that it allows me and my family to have the lifestyle we enjoy,” said Sas. “One may make more money in the city but you can’t afford this lifestyle.
“I still come to the shop six days a week for 10 hour days, and after 40 years I feel like I haven’t worked a day in my life,” said Sas, standing in the neatly organised workshop of his store. “We like to think we offer a one-stop shop for the area for all its sporting goods needs, which includes repairs and our excellent line of gently-used equipment which is an option to make sports affordable for all income levels.
“Skates are a large part of our used line-up, as they can be expensive when new and a youngster can outgrow them so quickly that they are still in great shape when it’s time to get a new pair. We will take trades and our used inventory is usually well-stocked with hockey and ski equipment.”
Sas said the Rocky Mountain Blizzard Bikes, with aggressive trail geometry and massively wide tires are becoming a popular item.
The business has constantly evolved to include new product lines, an example being kayaks which have been quite popular for the past 10 years, said Sas. “Our main focus remains on sports, sportswear and accessories, and we pride ourselves on good customer service. That’s how we manage to have repeat business from many different parts of the country. We feature good quality products and excellent customer service.”
In the line of footwear carried in the store, Sas explains that the business specializes in “problem fits,” carrying up to size 17 with 6E widths. “We have repeat customers come from Calgary to buy their footwear here. But the same goes for skates, as we can and have been custom fitting skates for customers for over twenty years.
“We’ve had a huge expansion in our children’s wear lineup and it is not unusual for a car full of people from out of town to drive to Kamsack to take advantage of the stock we offer. Good quality products are desirable and that translates into value for our customers.”
The E-bike (electric bike) line has become popular with both men and women who have some physical issues such as hip or knee replacements, and still want to ride a bike, said Sas.
Sas-Kam provides full-service repair for skis and bikes.
While doing business, Sas has never forgotten the community and has served in many capacities over the years.
He is currently on the board of the Kamsack Business Association, but in the past was a member of the Kamsack and District Chamber of Commerce for 15 years and served as its president for two. He was a member of the Kamsack economic development committee for two years.
Sas has served on the Duck Mountain Regional Park Board since the beginning about 30 years ago and has been chair of the Ski Hill for 20 years, helping to promote and fundraise for it.
Sas-Kam has donated T-shirts for the Old Dog Run, and recently hosted the Sas-Kam Disc Golf Tournament at the new Kamsack Disc Golf course. Sas-Kam sponsors Minor Hockey and Minor Baseball. In the past Sas helped revive the Kamsack Flyers senior hockey team and was an executive member on the committee as well as a player on the team.
Over the last few years, Sas’ son Morgan, daughter Shanley and son-in-law Jeremy Allard have stepped up to help run the well-established family business.
Shanley and Jeremy are married with three children; Cameron, 10; Shayla, 9, and Kaley, 7. It’s been said that the couple has “been helpful in reviving the sports of minor hockey and baseball in Kamsack.”
Jeremy, who was once a member of the Kamsack RCMP, is the president of Kamsack Minor Ball and the vice-president of Kamsack Minor Hockey. He is a regional coach mentor for Sask Hockey, once played college hockey in North Dakota and hockey in the MJHL (Manitoba Junior Hockey League.) He has coached hockey right from initiation to Junior B. A certified power skating instructor, he is also a “coach instructor,” running clinics to certify new coaches.
Shanley is on the school community council, the Kamsack Rec Board and an executive member of Minor Hockey, but has a sports background having played high school basketball and volleyball and women’s hockey with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
She played Midget AAA with the Saltcoats Prairie Fire when the team won the Western Canadians. She’s an avid golfer, skier and water skier.
Morgan is also passionate about sports including hockey, having played AAA hockey in the SJHL (Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League) with the Yorkton Harvest (now Maulers) and Junior hockey with the Yorkton Terriers. He is an avid disc golfer and kayaker, plays golf, enjoys skiing and water skiing and has been a ski instructor giving lessons at the Duck Mountain Ski Hill for a number of years.
Morgan is married to Jodi and they have three children: Jade, 6; Layla, 5, and Piper, 3. At Sas-Kam he does silk screening for teams and individuals. “It’s limitless, really, as there is all sorts of custom silk screening that can be done.
“It’s great to be working in the family business, especially in Kamsack which is so close to Duck Mountain Provincial Park,” he said.
Twenty years ago Sas explained that a store like Sas-Kam in a rural area was more affordable for customers than a store in the city because of low overhead, and that remains the same today. While preparing to celebrate his anniversary of 40 years in business on October 28, Sas shows no signs of slowing down.