Faster, Higher, Stronger: the motto of the Olympics, finds resonance with Wagle Sports at Dhobi Talao. Established in 1865, the 1,500 sq ft store has stood the test of time and is one of the oldest sports shops in the country. Today, while the Dhobi Talao locality is dotted with 25 sports shops, Wagle Sports still remains the shop of choice for many. In fact, in 2009, when actor Shah Rukh Khan wanted a custom-made WWF wrestling ring for his home, Wagle Sports was where he turned to.
They have also supplied and designed products for tennis champ Vijay Amritraj, actor Sunny Deol, former badminton player Aparna Popat, Bollywood celebrities including Juhi Chawla and Saif Ali Khan and have sourced products for several advertisements.
While recent renovations have forced them to shift base to another space in Dhobi Talao, they hope to head back to their erstwhile location within two years.
Recounting Wagle Sports’ journey through the years, Manohar Wagle says, “We were originally involved in the perfumery business. My great-grandfather Raghunath Wagle set up Wagle Sports in 1865 on the advice of a friendly British officer (in those times, British Naval officers were quartered in rooms opposite Crawford Market since their barracks were at Marine Lines). The officer remarked how difficult it was to source sports goods from England, as it would take at least six months. My great-grandfather decided to give it a shot; that’s how Wagle Sports took shape.”
Wagle observes that while their initial products were imported from abroad, nowadays, their product mix includes locally sourced as well as cutting-edge imported products. To jog the memory, the store still stores antique sports memorabilia including centuries-old badminton and tennis racquets, boomerangs, wooden archery bows, leather footballs and a pair of Jesse Owens-autographed spikes. Over the years, Wagle Sports has sourced many products including Olympic torches, catapults, boomerangs, surfing boards, camping gear, skiis, and even unicycles for customers.
Adapting to the times and the increasing competition, Wagle Sports stocks fitness products as well, which have been a big hit. “Treadmills, cross trainers and cycles have been flying off the shelves. The latest fitness product we stock is kettlebells which are cast-iron weights that resemble a kettle and are used for cardiovascular and strength training (Rs 150 per kilo).”
With the Olympics around the corner, they stock a range of athletic products including hammer, training hurdles, catapults, crossbow pistols and air pistols. You can shop for roller skates, billiard / pool tables, footwear for various sports, archery bows, boxing gloves, cricket bags, baseball bats, roller skates, trampolin and pogo sticks.
We liked their electronic dartboards (Rs 400 onwards), mini-golf sets (Rs 1,500 onwards), hula hoops (Rs 300 onwards), Roman rings used in gymnastics (Rs 900 a pair) as well as the chess set in soft stone (Rs 1,500) and the poker set that comes in a briefcase (Rs 1,100). Fans of action movies will love their nanchakus (Rs 150 onwards) while snorkelling aficionados can check out their imported gear (Rs 4,000 onwards). If you are a fan of gully cricket their spring stumps are a must; the stumps can be set up just about anywhere (Rs 1,200).
Alongside the latest products, traditional products also occupy pride of place at Wagle Sports. So, at their shop they stock Sal wood Mugdals (an ancient weight training tool used by wrestlers) and Choupad (a form of chess, mentioned in the Mahabharata) sets as well. “Ancient techniques are on the verge of being discarded; that’s why youngsters need to be made aware about them before they slip into oblivion.”
Wagle, who is currently, the Chairman of the Maharashtra Sports and Fitness Trade Association (MSAFTA), has set sight on publishing a new quarterly titled Big In Sports. Set for a July-end release, it will be distributed free of cost to sports goods traders.
After all these years at the helm, Wagle recalls that observing his father helped him learn a trick or two about the business of sport. “The focus has been on anticipating a demand and stocking a huge range of high-quality products. So, even if a customer wants ski equipment in Mumbai, we stock or source it.
This approach has kept Wagle Sports in the public consciousness after all these years,” he concludes.