Sometimes, good things come in fours.
Fore!Women Inc., a retail shop on Spokane's North Side that caters to female golfers, got into the swing of things four years ago after a conversation on the par-four fourth hole of Esmeralda Golf Course.
One person short of a foursome, Jeannette DeLisle and daughters Andria DeLisle and Angela Malone chatted about the challenge of finding comfortable, stylish women's golf shoes in Spokane.
"We're talking about how my oldest daughter Angela has trouble finding a stylish pair of golf shoes. There wasn't a lot here," says Jeannette DeLisle, about what inspired the store, located at 5005 N. Division. "That's when my daughter Angela said, 'We just ought to open our own store and take care of this,' so that's how it all got startedon the golf course."
DeLisle owns the business, which carries women's golf apparel, shoes, and accessories, with her husband, Dee DeLisle, but he isn't involved in the store's day-to-day operations. Angela helps with advertising and store promotions, although she isn't an employee, and Andria is one of three part-time employees.
In November, Fore!Women moved into its 1,200 square feet of retail space on Division Street, next to Wide World of Golf and across the street from NorthTown Mall, from its original location at 122 S. Monroe downtown, where it opened in 2008.
DeLisle says she and her daughters thought the Division Street location offered better visibility and an ideal arrangement to complement rather than compete with the neighboring Wide World of Golf.
"They're about the only golf store here that's strictly a golf store, and they sell clubs and hard goodsbags, balls, and a few clothes and shoes for women," DeLisle says. "We carry a different line of clothes and shoes and accessories than they do."
She adds, "Since we moved here, our business has really increased even with the weather and the economy. We're getting so much walk-in traffic; it's amazing."
Although she declines to disclose revenue figures, she says the business's sales increased each year for the first three years it was open, and its revenue has risen sharply in the first half of this year.
"This year already we're not far from the whole of last year, and we have six months to go," she says.
Months such as November and December were strong this year during the holiday season, and the store promotes its women's apparel year-round as active leisurewear, such as for Spokane residents who spend winter months in warmer regions or for travelers heading off on a cruise trip.
"If you're going to Hawaii in the winter, we're about the only ones carrying shorts and short-sleeved tops. We keep them year-round."
She reduces the store hours in January and February when business tends to slow down, but the store resumes normal activity by spring through the rest of the year.
Jeannette DeLisle works one day a week in the store.
"I'm out on the golf course," says DeLisle, about the rest of her week. She often wears coordinated outfits and shoes that come from her store as she golfs, adding, "That's my contribution to the promotions."
All joking aside, she says, the business has benefitted from word-of-mouth advertising, and she has been approached on courses by women who inquire about where she bought outfits.
The store is starting to see customers from a wider geographic area as well, DeLisle says.
"We're getting known in Idaho, and we're starting to see women coming over from Coeur d'Alene, Hayden, and Blanchard," she says.
Blanchard is home to the StoneRidge Golf Course community, DeLisle says, and she has seen several people from there come to the store. Fore!Women recently held a fashion show at StoneRidge for the Ladies Club Invitational, one of a handful of regional golf tournaments for which the retailer offers fashion shows.
She says she believes women golfers enjoy looking sharp on the golf course as much as they have fun with the game.
"I think when you're out there in proper attire, you look good, you feel good, and you golf better," she adds. "We see more and more women out there are dressing up in coordinated outfits, and they look like the LPGA players."
The store stocks several brands, including EP Pro, Sport Haley, Tail, JoFit, Jamie Sadock, Sandbagger, Ecco Shoes, and Glove It. The store even stocks a few designer golf bags. For the casual women's apparel, the clothing sizes range from extra small to 1X.
"We're geared totally toward the woman golfer," she says. "We carry whatever they need to golf. What they can get from pro shops is kind of in small quantities and sizes."
Raingear was among the more popular merchandise this spring, DeLisle adds with a smile.
On the flip side, an unusual product it carries is called SOL Sleeve, a light-weight UV protection material sleeve that women can slip up their arms like a long glove for sun protection.
The store also has golf club covers, hats, gloves, and several magnetic ball markers with designs that fit interchangeably on a necklace so the golfer can easily remove one for use on the green.
She says the store stocks many shoes and sandals that can be worn on or off the golf course. They have exterior soles that are molded to grip surfaces while offering comfortable insoles.
"You can wear them to work and then go to golf after work," she says.
DeLisle regularly golfs at Esmeralda and participates in nine-hole and 18-hole leagues there. She also is a member of the Spokane Area Women's Golf Association, a group that holds tournaments and match play games, and she golfs with family at Chewelah Golf & Country Club.
"I'm on the course five or six days a week," DeLisle says, although she jokes that her game has suffered since she opened a store. She retired in 2006 from the Spokane office of the U.S. Navy Recruiting District Seattle and didn't start golfing until about 10 years ago after her husband's retirement. That's when the couple decided to take up the game as an activity to do together.
"I became addicted to golf," she says. "I'm worse than he is."
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