By Kassie Parisi
HALFMOON — After decades of being a staple in the local soccer community, Soccer Unlimited will be closing the doors of its Halfmoon location to consolidate business at its second store in the town of Colonie.
Soccer Unlimited has, for years, been considered the “go-to” stop and shop for the local soccer community. Exclusively dedicated to soccer gear, the shop provides everything a player might need, from cleats to shin guards to jerseys.
Owner Luigi Corcione, who was born in Italy but grew up in Albany, was inspired to open a store that specialized in soccer while he was helping out at his college soccer coach’s summer camp in North Carolina during the summer of 1980.
One day, needing to pick up some playing gear, Corcione’s coach made a stop at a soccer shop. Corcione, who had never heard of a such a store before, went along for the trip and was stunned by what he saw.
“It was like a candy shop,” Corcione said, noting that his eyes went wide upon walking inside. “Anything you want for soccer, you could walk in there and buy it.”
And the rest was history. Corcione returned to his home in Clifton Park and had his first soccer store, a 300-square-foot space in Jonesville, up and running by December of 1980.
A few years of business went by before Soccer Unlimited finally settled into its long-time Halfmoon location on Route 9. During that transitional period, Corcione also opened a second location in Colonie on Central Avenue.
“It’s been a long road,” he added.
Corcione, who now co-owns the business with brother Bob, has witnessed firsthand the shifting perception and attention around soccer. When his shop first opened, soccer was barely featured on television and the local soccer community was only just starting to blossom.
After 30 years though, interest in soccer has skyrocketed, Luigi Corcione said. The Clifton Park Soccer Club, which gets uniforms from Soccer Unlimted, was the company’s first customer and has been a steadfast customer for decades. Now Clifton Park has around 1,100 players in both its spring and fall recreation programs.
Wearing soccer jerseys has become a fashion statement, and many enthusiasts watch the sport on television constantly, he said.
“We rode the tide with soccer,” he said. “Now it’s on TV every week, every night.”
And customer loyalty has been generational.
“I’ve got a lot of families, and now I’m doing their grandkids. Kids that I used to outfit, now they’re coming in with their kids, so I see them grow,” Corcione said.
But as Soccer Unlimited has been boosted up by soccer’s increased popularity, it has also taken a hit because of it. Soccer Unlimited was, at the beginning, the only store available that specialized in soccer gear. Since the sport was pushed into the mainstream, companies such as Nike and Adidas have jumped on the bandwagon and smaller stores had to adjust the products that they offer to compete.
Quick and easy sports shopping done through stores like Dicks, or even through Amazon, has hurt smaller stores as well, Corcione said.
“Brick and mortar stores are hurting because everyone is doing everything online,” he explained.
“Obviously, we don’t want to do it,” Bob Corcione said of the decision to close the Halfmoon location. “Unfortunately, I think it’s writing on the wall.”
The brothers estimated that the Halfmoon store would officially close by the first week in November, and the Colonie location will feature all of the same merchandise. Soccer Unlimited also utilizes an online store to keep up with the growing demand for quick and easy shopping.
The Corciones will continue to maintain their community partnerships. Bob Corcione said that once everything settles down after the closure, they might consider hosting clinics for local coaches and players. The point, he said, is to maintain the personal touch.
“Something you can’t get online,” he added.
And though it’ll be tough to shut the doors, Luigi Corcione is sure that he was, and still is, on the right track with the specialized store, despite the doubts people showed when he first opened up.
“They said, ‘I’ll give you a year.’ And look what happened. The timing was right, and we just rode the wave,” he said