The History of Bill & Paul's Sporthaus
Bill Pearson was born to Swedish immigrants in 1925 and grew up skiing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Bill and his wife Gerry taught their three children how to ski at an early age and quickly established a circle of friends who also shared their enthusiasm and love of the outdoors with their children.
Finding good quality equipment and expert advice was almost impossible when Bill Pearson was growing up. He took to special ordering equipment for his family and other local skiers and soon started selling merchandise out of his garage.
As skiing continued to grow in popularity, Bill looked for a way to fill the need for quality equipment.
Both Bill Pearson and Paul Plasman were good friends with established careers and young families to support. Both were avid outdoorsmen and shared a special passion for skiing. Together they vowed to venture forward with a dream and formed a partnership. They quit their day jobs, pooled their resources and opened Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus in the fall of 1961.
Bill and Paul built their business based on integrity, honesty and value. They established a reputation that brought increasing numbers of customers from around the state. These two friends promoted the sports they loved by forming ski clubs, organizing trips, providing rental equipment and offering professional instruction. In the summer months the store sold lightweight camping and backpacking gear.
These partners worked and skied together for the next decade. Sadly, Paul passed away in 1971 after a courageous battle with Hodgkin’s disease. Bill soldiered on with the store and its mission. His son Eric joined him in the business in 1974. Eric’s wife Kim later began working with the family in 1982. Bill's last major impact on the store came in 1996 when he, Eric, and Kim opened an impressive new store at 1200 East Paris in Grand Rapids. The store was purposely built to support the sales of skis, camping gear, paddle equipment, and clothing for outdoor recreation. Bill continued to show up at work and mentor "his kids" until his passing in 2001.
True to form, Eric and Kim taught their three children how to ski, snowboard, hike and paddle while operating a store that grew in size and reputation over the next 15 years. While the staff and product offerings expanded their dedication to delivering exceptional service and products was never diluted. They also mentored a core team of leaders who turned jobs into careers and who continue to serve second and third generations of Bill & Paul's familes.
In 2016 the Pearson era came to a close, as Eric and Kim passed the torch to another local family who have been long time customers of the store. Dan and Pamella DeVos and their children all have fond memories of buying their skis and other equipment at Bill & Paul's through the years. Thus they have known and trusted most of the store's long time employees. Keeping the mission of the store and structure of the staff in-tact, the DeVos' family wants to insure Bill & Paul's remains dedicated to serving outdoor recreation lovers of West Michigan and beyond for many years to come.
For over 5 decades Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus has served the Grand Rapids winter sport and outdoor market. The store has earned many awards throughout the years such as: Ski Industries of America’s Downhill Retailer of the Year, Ski Industries of America’s Cross Country Ski Retailer of the Year, Snow Country Magazine’s America’s Top Shops and Skiing Magazine’s Gold Medal Ski Shops. But what we're most proud of are the long lasting relationships with our customers and staff built on trust and a shared love of playing outdoors.
Original sketch of store concept by,
Jim Winter-Troutwine, AIA