The LAX Shop, the only store of its kind in the Chicagoland area, is opening Saturday, April 30, at 10 a.m., according to the store's owner, Chicago businessman Justin Smith. The LAX Shop, 1216 W. Belmont Avenue, will feature nearly 2,000 square feet of lacrosse equipment and apparel plus a one-of-a-kind "shooting cage" in the rear of the store.
"The time is right for a state-of-the-art lacrosse store downtown," Smith said. "Just a few years ago, Chicago Youth Lacrosse had about 50 players in the sport and this year there are nearly a thousand. And, all indications are that the sport will continue to grow at a rapid pace with both males and females playing at all age levels."
Smith has designed The LAX Shop as a one-stop lacrosse headquarters for players from beginners to advanced athletes. The new store will carry a complete inventory of lacrosse equipment for both males and females, including helmets, shoulder pads, arm pads, gloves, sticks, cleats, mouth guards, and much more.
Equipment will be from the top manufacturers in the industry, including Warrior, Brine, STX, Maverik, Cascade and others. In addition, the store will carry a wide selection of non-lacrosse athletic apparel (cross training shoes, workout gear, custom t-shirts and sweatshirts) for other sports. Future plans call for a unique equipment rental program to equip beginning players with the sticks, helmets, arm and shoulder pads, and gloves they need for an entire season.
An exclusive feature of the new store is a "shooting cage," with a radar gun for checking shot speed and accuracy. Here customers can try out equipment, get some coaching tips and have some fun. Similar to golf stores where customers can test different clubs, The LAX Shop customers can try out a certain brand of stick to ensure that it fits his or her skills.
"Our goal," says Smith, "is to ensure that when a customer leaves the store, he or she will be completely satisfied with their gear and know exactly how to wear it and use it safely and successfully."
With the growing popularity of lacrosse, it appears that the Illinois High School Association (ISHA) could possibly sanction both boys' and girls' lacrosse as state-sponsored sports in the future. There are currently some 15-20 high school lacrosse programs in the city of Chicago. Down the road, the lower level schools (junior high, intermediate) will also begin to have boys' and girls' lacrosse teams.
"Many people in the area are still new to the game," says Smith. "I will have historical data about the sport throughout the store. This will help people understand the longevity and power of the game, which is hundreds of years old. (Lacrosse in North America originated with Native North Americans.)
Smith will provide equipment and uniforms for entire school and club teams at affordable prices because of the efficient store's bulk ordering program.
Justin Smith knows lacrosse. A 1993 graduate of Lake Forest High School, he was named a high school lacrosse All-American and three times was named to the Illinois all-state team. He also played football and hockey at Lake Forest. He then went on to star in lacrosse on the collegiate level at Denison University in Ohio, where he was team captain as a senior and three times earned all-conference honors. More recently he has been a lacrosse assistant coach at Chicago's Saint Ignatius College Prep (the 2009 Class "B" Illinois state champion) and also coaches in the Chicago Youth Lacrosse (CYL) program.
Smith resides in the city with his wife Margie, daughter Ainsley and son Bo.
For more information, call (773) 525-1600, or visit the website at www.thelaxshop.com.