Obit: Bill Robinson, Sold Robby’s Sporting Goods to Woolworth

Bill Robinson, a sporting goods industry legend who built Bradenton, FL-based Robby’s Sporting Goods into a regional sporting goods retail powerhouse before selling it to Woolworth – which then turned it into Champs Sports – passed away January 2 at the age of 70.

Robby’s Sporting Goods was actually started by Bill’s father and brother in 1960 in Bradenton. But it was Bill and his brother, H.L. “Penny” Robinson, who built Robby’s Sporting Goods into a successful corporation over the next 28 years that would grow into a 49-store chain across five southeastern states by 1988. Bill opened their first mall store in DeSoto Square Mall in Bradenton and later they expanded to other cities, including Atlanta and Birmingham.

During this time, additional store concepts opened, including The Sports Fan, a sports fanatic gear shop, and they also owned seven Athlete’s Foot franchises. In 1985 Robinson rebranded and introduced Robby’s Sports, with a focus on team and lifestyle products — guns and bows and arrows were removed. In a span of 24 years, from 1960 to 1984, Robby’s Sports grew from one to 20 stores. From 1984 to 1987, in just three years, 22 more stores were opened.