Basketball shorts? Football helmet? Hockey stick? It’s that time of year. At the start of every new sports season, you can find kids, parents, and coaches at the go-to spot in Hudson County for all your sporting needs—uniforms, sportswear, sneakers, cleats, balls, bats, gloves, pucks, rackets, protective gear, and equipment of all kinds.
And it’s not Modell’s.
This nearly 70-year-old Hoboken institution is a kaleidoscope of high-school colors, smelling of new leather, and smacking of old-school.
Started in 1946 by two brothers-in-law, Pete Stanich and Ray Cerrito, Stan’s Sports Center was their joint venture when they came home from military service. Stanich used the first four letters of his last name to christen the business, and a Hoboken institution was born.
As a child growing up in Hoboken, Dan DeCongelio hung out at Stan’s on Washington Street—“the avenue”—where kids picked up a new baseball glove or checked out the latest matchbox cars.
But by the age of 15, Dan was no longer just hanging out. Recruited by Ray Cerrito, he began laying the foundation for what would one day be part of his own family’s legacy as well.
Young Dan became part of the Stan’s family in the early 1970s. A couple of years later he would graduate from Hoboken High School and go on to college at Jersey City State College, now NJCU, but he still came back to Stan’s every Saturday to do the payroll.
“I loved it,” Dan says. “It was a part of me.”
Even when he earned his accounting degree and landed a job, Saturdays were reserved for his “family” at Stan’s.
Ray Cerrito eventually took over the business from Pete Stanich, and what Ray really wanted was for Dan to work fulltime, an arrangement Dan said he would be interested in only if he could have a stake in the business when Ray retired. Ray struck the deal in the way most deals were struck in those times.
“I left my job on a handshake,” Dan says. “I took my chances, but he was the type of guy that a handshake went a long way.”
Just a few years later, the time came to pass the baton. In 1996, Dan became the owner of the institution that gave him his start.
And his beloved mentor? He became his employee for the hefty price of $1 per year or a hot dog from Biggie’s.
Until his death, Ray was a true mentor to Dan DeCongelio.
Soon another young man could be found hanging out at Stan’s: Dan’s son. When Dan Jr. was off from school, he was shooting baskets in the basement of the sports center or playing wiffle ball with the workers.
He followed a similar path as that of his father—working weekends at Stan’s even after he had gone away to college and to work at a bank.
Two years later he invited his father to dinner to have a conversation not much different than the one Ray and Dan Sr. had years earlier.
“I’d been around it for so long growing up,” Dan Jr. says. “I just knew that this was the right fit for me.”
The father-and-son duo has maintained exemplary customer service while stocking a diverse inventory that rivals—or in some cases exceeds—that in the big chain stores.
Within four months of returning to Stan’s with his newfound experience in the banking business, Dan Jr. revamped the store’s website, created a social-media campaign, and instituted online shopping.
“We’ve got all these likes all of a sudden,” Dan Sr. says.
Indeed, Stan’s had a lot of “likes,” long before the advent of Facebook.
Outfitting recreation and high-school teams from Hoboken to Harrison, Stan’s has a longstanding connection with many communities in Hudson and Bergen counties.
If you walk into the store now—which is bedecked in Hoboken red and white—you won’t find matchbox cars and boxes of sports equipment strewn about as in earlier times.
As Hoboken has evolved, so has Stan’s. It now carries a lot of “Hoboken” products like hoodies and t-shirts. And though the aisles have been made baby-stroller friendly, you can still come in and pick up a baseball glove—just like in the good ol’ days.
“Everything changes over the years,” Dan Sr. says, “But you still have your sense of community.”—07030
Stan’s Sports Center
528 Washington St.
PHOTOS BY Terri Saulino Bish