A town fixture for 38 years, Emmons’ place in Media history secure
Kirk Emmons, owner of closed Bill Battey’s Sporting Goods, and son Tom Emmons, his right-hand man for several years, at his pop’s 97th birthday celebration Thursday at Pinnochio’s in Media. Emmons has been a tireless advocate for the media sports community.
MEDIA – Words fail to describe what Kirk Emmons did for the community back when he ran Bill Battey Sporting Goods.
From the smiles that greeted customers at the door to the booming laughter and good-natured conversations about sports, life, and sporting goods, Emmons was more of a friend than the manager of the eatery on Front Street and Jackson from 1970 until the day it closed Street, December 31, 2008.
He’s a friend and a business owner who enjoyed giving you everything he had and 10 percent more.
Emmons loved this life, loved his late wife Sue and loved his sons Jeff, Jay, Jim and Tom who were instrumental in running the store with traditional and hard to find sporting goods. And he still had enough energy to love the people he served.
All of those memories came flooding back at Emmons’ 97th birthday party Thursday at Pinnochio’s, just steps away from the life he had in No. 1 Front Street, today’s Bryn Mawr Running Company.
Bill Battey’s couldn’t compete with the giant online companies that stocked and shipped an obscene amount of sporting goods. But Emmons’ personal touch was forever. If he could do it all over again and work 24/7, well, definitely, where would I sign?
“It was a pleasure to work there,” Emmons said. “And you had to focus on really giving people the best possible service. You helped them find something they couldn’t seem to find on their own. I learned that from my time at Bell Telephone. They really got it ingrained in me. And I think part of that came naturally.”
Emmons bought the store from Bill Battey, a grumpy character known for locking the doors at 5:59 p.m. when the store’s closing time was 6 p.m.
Emmons was energetic and, along with his sons, ensured that Battey’s was among the first stores in the area to stock Nike Air Jordans and Chuck Taylors. Who knew the legendary Taylor hooked up with the Emmons before starting?
During my hilarious one-assist college football career (Jeff Angstadt had the goal), I had the incredibly stylish White Stag warm-ups everyone was craving…available only at Battey’s. The compliments I got. Not to mention the 10 percent discount on top.
“Yeah,” Emmons said, bursting into a hearty laugh. “We gave almost everyone a discount.”
Bill Battey’s supported youth teams before these organizations developed a flair for fundraising. He was instrumental in making the media 5 mile race a success. Every exchange student who walked into the store, high school or college was given a Bill Battey t-shirt and an opportunity to share their stories.
Celebrity shoppers were a frequent event. Among others were the late Tug McGraw, John Chaney and Joe Frazier. Emmons insisted that the boxing gloves Frazier was looking for got stuck on the house.
One of McGraw’s sons worked at Battey. When the indomitable Phillies pitcher walked by, two elderly women left their groceries at the register to chat with McGraw outside for at least half an hour.
“They loved it,” Emmons said. “Mike Schmidt came by. And one of my favorites, Jimmy Watson with the Flyers. One morning he came in and said he needed a tennis racquet. I sold him three Wilsons that day and I think he broke them all. The other Watson, Joe, he came in all the time. And Don Saleski, Big Bird with the flyers.”
Emmons was most impressed by Chaney, then Temple University basketball coach and six years younger than Emmons. He was a friend of one of the media industry lawyers who loved to quit work and hang out at Battey’s.
“John Chaney really impressed me,” Emmons said. “I liked the idea of a student really being a student and learning something. I loved the guy for that.”
Bill Battey’s really was a place that felt safe. Tom Emmons recalled a customer who suddenly experienced pain when buying running shoes.
“He had a heart attack,” Emmons recalled. “So I ran out the door and yelled at the guys who were washing the fire trucks on the street and said, ‘Can I borrow you guys?’ They ran over and saved the guy.”
There are just too many quirky customers for Emmons to remember, though Matt Heavens, formerly a US mailman in the media industry, jumped out while attending the birthday party. Apparently, Heavens has coordinated its breaks with stops at Battey’s to look at inventory.
“He always left his mail bag right next to the tennis racquets,” Emmons said. “So we put a shot put in the sack.”
Confirming the story and the sudden weight in the bag, Heavens burst out laughing and exclaimed, “That was a federal offense.”
The federal crime, if you will, is that today’s youth will never get a chance to shop at a store like Bill Battey Sporting Goods. You’ll never get the chance to put on and take home that overly cool warm-up outfit, a pair of fancy shoes, a baseball glove, soccer shoes, a bowling ball, a lacrosse bat, a mouthguard, and tons of other items. With the 10 percent discount, they won’t make you smile.
Away from business, Emmons and his sons are enjoying the vacation movie It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart. It’s no coincidence that it’s about an advocate who gave everything he had to his family and community.
“I have news for you,” Jeff Emmons said before casting his father as Stewart. “Media is Bedford Falls and he is George Bailey. Basically, that was the essence of what we did.”
Contact Bob Grotz at [email protected]