Iconic Belleville store operating downtown since 1946 is closing by year’s end
Curt Smith’s is a “well-known institution,” said Tom Petrekovich, manager of Curt Smith’s Outdoors.
I met with Petrekovich this week after he called me with the news that the longtime store that specializes in sporting goods and outdoor gear will close at the end of this year.
That’s right. Curt Smith’s Outdoors will close after 76 years.
The store’s owner, Steve Smith, is ready to retire, said Petrekovich, who added that this was a conversation they’ve been having for a little over a year, since around the time the store stopped selling athletic equipment.
After closing the sporting goods part of the business, everything was different, said Petrekovich.
They still had some online sales, he said, but it wasn’t the same.
Petrekovich also said customers have asked on occasion what will happen to the store when Smith is gone.
So the timing worked out, said Petrekovich.
Starting in October, merchandise at the store will be sold at reduced prices to liquidate the inventory. Price reductions will likely increase over time.
The goal is to sell everything and close by the end of the year. If they manage to sell everything before then, they will close sooner.
Petrekovich said that this time of year was usually their busiest with hunting season and the approaching Christmas season, but he said he isn’t sure if business will pick up.
“At some point, I’ll have to quit ordering [items] for customers,” and unsold consignment items will be returned to the owners, said Petrekovich.
Six months ago Smith told Petrokovich that they needed to put stuff in the window because people thought they were closing.
Petrekovich said folks have been asking for a while if the store was closing and admitted that he had to deny it until the business was ready to make the announcement in its own time.
About Curt Smith’s Sporting Goods
Curt Smith opened his sporting goods store in 1946.
A look through the newspaper archives (fun for a nerd like me) revealed print ads from 1946 that show the store’s original location at “Hotel Belleville on South Illinois Street” (known today as Lofts on the Square).
Curt Smith purchased the building at 100 W. Main St., Belleville, in early 1949, and opened at that location Feb. 28 of that year.
Curt Smith’s relocated in 1985, this time to 213 E. Main St., taking over the location of a J.C. Penney store that closed in December 1984.
Curt Smith died in July 1996.
The sporting goods store received the city’s approval for a tax abatement to expand to 13 N. Church St. in June 1999.
In September 1999, Steve Smith was one of the first downtown Belleville merchants to apply for a grant for a building makeover, allowing Curt Smith’s to purchase the building at 13 N. Church St.
Curt Smith’s Outdoors operated at the Church Street location until May 2018, when it consolidated to the East Main Street location.
Curt Smith’s transitioned from selling sporting goods to selling only outdoor and hunting gear in June 2021.
Petrekovich has been the store’s manager since November 2017.
He started working there part-time in 2015, coming out of retirement from a long career (about 30 years) with General Motors.
Petrekovich said that retirement didn’t suit him, so he was glad to have something to keep him busy.
“I’ve been influenced with guns my whole life,” he said, adding that working at Curt Smith’s is the “next best thing to owning a gun store.”
Petrekovich told Smith he would “hang in ‘til the last.”
With the inevitable second retirement, he said he’s not worried about what’s next.
Curt Smith’s Outdoors is located at 213 E. Main St. in Belleville. Current hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. They are closed Sunday and Monday.
For more information, call 618-509-5905 or visit curtsmithsoutdoors.com.
Curt Smith's Newspaper Clippings by Jennifer Green on Scribd