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From school supplies to baseball bats: Burghardt Sporting Goods' remarkable 135 years in biz.

Outfitting sports leagues from head to toe across North America is no easy task. There are the uniforms with silk-screened numbers and letters, not to mention gear, whether baseball bats and gloves or field hockey goggles and sticks.

Charles Burghardt founded what’s now Burghardt Sporting Goods in 1881, as a retailer of stationary and school supplies in Downtown Milwaukee. His focus turned to team sports, including baseball uniforms (then with felt letters and numerals) and gear, at the turn of the last century, using horses and buggies for deliveries. This makes this store one of the nation’s oldest family-owned sporting goods stores. With the post-World War II rise of the automobile, parking woes became a thing and the business relocated to North 63rd Street and West Capitol Drive in 1967, shuffling further west to 146th and Capitol Drive in Brookfield in 1995. A Fox Point store opened in 2012. Fourth-generation president and Charles’ great-grandson Chip Burghardt, 76, sold the business to his kids in 2008: Brian, 45, now focuses on sales, and Carl, 43, purchasing and operations. Three years later, their sister Lynn Burghardt, 35, came on board, leading human resources, project management and training and became an owner in 2014. All three work in sales, purchasing and operations and are among the company’s top-four sales people. Chip still helps out.

The store in its original location selling stationary and school supplies in Downtown Milwaukee. Photo courtesy of Burghardt Sporting Goods

What’s in the Constitution you give all employees and job applicants, created by you guys and core employees?
Lynn: It helps describe the ethics behind what we do. It will be in perpetual draft form.
Carl: It has helped us talk to people if there’s a problem.

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Most popular item sold in the late 1800s? 1970s?
Brian: In the late 1800s, it would have to be the baseball equipment as it became more of a national sport.
Chip: Baseball’s been the history all along. Around 1970, the aluminum bat came along, and letter jackets, we’ve had them forever.

What’s the story behind the “You Can’t Beat Burghardt” jingle?
Brian: We’ve had a lot of jingles. That’s the most current one. We wanted to say something that’s in the spirit of competition.
Chip: Before that, it was “the Burghardt advantage.”

Any notable customers?
Brian: When Bud Selig comes in, I get personally notified. Jason Kidd comes in regularly. 
Chip: Larry Clark used to come in, an old TV guy.
Carl: I had a guy come up to me and say, “You look just like your grandfather.” He’s been dead since 1996.


Year Founded
1881

Location
14660 W. Capitol Drive, Brookfield; and 8625 N. Port Washington Road, Fox Point

Best-Selling Item
Custom websites for league coordinators collecting orders for apparel and equipment

Most Expensive Item
Goalrilla basketball system, $2,000

Total Sports Outfitted
Baseball/softball, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse and football — often spanning generations in the same family.

Family Members on Staff
Four (plus a few part-time, sixth-generation teens)

Total Employees
90

‘Family Business: Burghardt Sporting Goods’ appears in the March issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning February 27, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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