Intersport Manager Neil Ogg

Move to Campbell River was well worth the risk

Growing up in South Africa, times were hard and Shead was looking for something better for himself and his young family

Intersport Manager Neil Ogg, left, and Intersport Owner Jonathan Shead try out the sporting equipment, just one of the many sporting goods for sale at Intersport. Kristen Douglas/Campbell River Mirror

Twenty-three years ago Jonathan Shead was looking for a change.

Growing up in South Africa, times were hard and Shead was looking for something better for himself and his young family.

“We were dairy farmers in South Africa and we wanted a change,” Shead says.

So he cast his eyes toward B.C., where Shead’s wife, Robyn, had family, hoping for a better life.

Shead and his wife started to seek out business opportunities and four or five months into exploring, Mr. Mike’s came knocking.

Shead started the restaurant in behind Tyee Plaza – where the Java Shack is today – despite limited experience in the restaurant business.

He and his wife, Robyn, owned the restaurant for five years until the opportunity arose to try something new.

“We thought there was an opening in the town for a mixed sporting footwear and apparel store so we searched for a franchise that would support us,” Shead says.

The Sheads opened the doors to Intersport in August, 1999, just three doors down from its current location in Tyee Plaza.

The move expanded the store from 5,000 square feet to double that size and allowed Intersport to grow its inventory.

An inventory that includes a wide selection of outdoor wear, fitness clothing, fashion wear, footwear and aisles of sports equipment.

The Campbell River store is the only Intersport franchisee on the Island, and is a shining example to other stores within the chain.

Shead’s store was honoured with Intersport’s Franchisee of the Year award for 2015, which he attributes to the store’s growth in sales, glowing customer reviews, and inspection ratings.

“It was a surprise, but we’re very happy – and that’s a reflection on the staff,” Shead says of the award. “Definitely the success of the store is the staff.”

Intersport employs 15 full and part-time staff who Shead says “work hard” and “stay a long time,” including those who have gone off to university but come home to work at Intersport during the summer.

It’s no different with the store’s permanent full-time staff.

Manager Neil Ogg has been with Intersport for more than 16 years, while Assistant Manager Buyer Candice Prokopchuk has been with the store for 14 years. The other full-time staff have all been employed by Intersport for at least seven or eight years, Shead says.

The store’s success, he says, makes the risks he took all worthwhile.

Packing up his two young girls, who at the time were seven and two-years-old, to move halfway across the world wasn’t easy, Shead says.

“It was super stressful, but definitely worth it,” says Shead who has gone back to South Africa five or six times since then to see his brothers, sister, his mom and his in-laws. Though he hasn’t been back often, he hasn’t lost the language.

“I’m fluent in English, Afrikaans and Zulu,” Shead says with a smile. “Which really isn’t a very big help unless you’re in South Africa.”

Still, he’s happy with the path his life has taken him down, and he’s proud of his store’s success.

“Our location is very good,” he says of Intersport. “For what we do, it’s very good.”