It's no secret Canadians love hockey, and Dominique Laroche, owner of a Play It Again Sports® franchise in Cornwall, Ontario, is no exception.
Starting to play at just eight years old, Dominique participated in youth hockey leagues throughout her childhood before she joined the Canadian National Women's Hockey League in their inaugural year. From 1999 to 2004, Dominique played for the Ottawa Raiders and the Quebec Avalanche.
Despite a busy playing schedule, Dominique continued to work for her father part-time at their Play It Again Sports location that her father, Claude, had opened in 1997. Five years of playing professional hockey later, she retired due to a knee injury and began working full-time.
Keeping it in the Family
After working alongside her father for another nine years, Dominique became owner and manager in 2013, following her dad's retirement. According to Dominique, this was something she always envisioned herself doing after her sports career.
"My dad owned the shop, and so I was so lucky to be able to work throughout my career," Dominique said. "I knew that after finishing my hockey career, I would return to our Play It Again Sports location."
The Laroche's first looked into franchising with Play It Again Sports to fill a need they saw in their community. As Canada's national sport, hockey is the most popular sport by far in the small town of Cornwall. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most expensive sports to play, especially for households with multiple athletes and those who compete at elite levels.
Knowing first-hand how much lower prices can help families, the Laroches knew the impact a Play It Again Sports franchise could make on their community.
According to an online article, on average, there is a total cost difference of $2,585 between purchasing new versus quality used equipment throughout a child's sports career. Considering this price estimate doesn't include additional fees, which can add anywhere between $150 to $1,500, it is clear why so many families struggle to keep their kids on the ice. Especially in lower-income communities like Cornwall, the difference in these prices could be the difference between a kid getting to play or not.
Additionally, customers who chose to buy new equipment can sell it back to Play It Again Sports, which recirculates high-quality used gear within the community and allows customers to receivemoney on the spot.
Leading the Team
Dominique's store has become known for more than just excellent savings, but a place where customers can get great, authoritative athletic advice as well.
It's not all that surprising considering the owner is a former pro athlete, but Dominique isn't the only one sharing guidance drawn from personal experience with customers. In addition, Dominique is selective when recruiting and hiring employees, making it a point to seek out former athletes.
"You can train someone to sell products, but you can't teach someone past experiences. So having staff members who can look back on their own experiences makes a huge difference to the peace of mind of our customers," she explained. "No other sports retail store around here can provide that level of customer service."
Dominique has become a cornerstone of the Cornwall community as her store approaches its 25th anniversary, something that never would have happened if not for her family, her connection to families and businesses in the area and her hands-on approach to operating her store community — and, of course, her love of hockey.
Part of the Community
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