For the Leipards and the Christals, taking over D Sport on 1034 E. Walnut St. is a family affair. Sisters Carmen Christal and Connie Leipard and their husbands, Shawn and Mike, will be running the more than 40-year-old screen-printing, embroidery, engraving and promotional product business effective Jan. 1.
Although taking over a business together as a family might seem like a questionable decision to some, the Leipards and Christals aren’t nervous. They’ve sworn off job titles and plan on taking a team approach to running the business.
“Doing this together is a no-brainer,” Mike says. “With the expertise everyone has, it’s a perfect union.”
Between the Leipards and the Christals, several skills are brought to the table. Connie and Mike have owned Quality Drywall Construction for 37 years and are well versed in the business world. Shawn has a background in graphic design. Carmen is creative and has a knack for customer service.
“When you’ve been through life together, you know each other really well,” Mike says.
D Sport’s current owner and family friend, Richard Ditter, is retiring but not with any regrets. He says he’s happy to have created a new business opportunity for his friends and looks forward to a retirement full of travel and sunshine.
A nod to the past
Ditter opened D Sport in the mid-’70s. It was originally a sporting good and award-engraving store but evolved over the years. His wife, Rose Ditter, owned the hair salon next door until she retired last year.
The D Sport website says that “whether you are a small business, large corporation, musician, school organization or club, D Sport is your one-stop shop for getting your group noticed.”
The Leipards and Christals are longtime customers of D Sport and have numerous fond memories of products they’ve purchased there.
The Leipards used to sponsor the Show-Me State Games’ Quality Drywall Construction basketball team every year. The Show-Me State Games are an Olympic-style sports festival. The Leipards would order their players’ jerseys from D Sport. Mike still laughs at the memory of not being able to order a jersey big enough for their 7-foot-1-inch team member, the now-retired NBA player Gary Leonard.
Several factors sparked the Leipards and Christals interest in running D Sport. Carmen and Shawn, who previously worked in Hannibal, Missouri, wanted to move to Columbia. Shawn also found the business appealing because of his background in graphic design. The Leipards feel they have something to contribute because of their business background.
Although the Leipards and Christals hope to expand D Sport, they also want to keep much of the business the same. They want to keep the customer base Ditter has established over the past 40 years while adding more customers from the Leipards’ established list of business contacts.
The Leipards and Christals believe in the business. Shawn says D Sport is set apart from similar businesses in the area because it has specialists in each service it provides: embroidery, engraving and the like.
D Sport was handed over to the Leipards and Christals over coffee and a handshake. That’s just Ditter’s style.
“[Ditter’s] outstanding personality is what’s going to be hard to replace,” Mike says.
Ditter’s personality might be hard to replace, but he’s ready for retirement. When asked if there’s anything else he’d like to say, Ditter just chuckles, waves and cheerfully says, “Bye!” as he exits the room. And just like that, one chapter in D Sport’s history has closed as another one opens.