DANBURY, Conn. -- Vazquez SoccerChamp Sports may be a new business in downtown Danbury. But the building the business calls home -- at 90 White St. -- is far from new.
The downtown landmark was Meeker's Hardware from 1883 to 2012 and is on the National Register of Historical Places.
"Everybody knows this building," said Juan Vazquez, 29, who owns SoccerChamp Sports with his wife, Mayra, 26.
SoccerChamp Sports sells everything soccer-related for children and adults, including clothing; accessories such as supports, sports wraps, goal-keeper gloves and shoes; and even soccer-themed phone covers.
The 4,000-square-foot store also makes uniforms for soccer teams with all printing done on site.
Juan Vazquez said that in the fall, he would like to start working with schools to provide team uniforms for children.
In one corner of the store, they built a 20-foot-by-10-foot soccer field where children can play soccer while their parents shop. "It's a great attraction for the kids," Mayra said.
Since 2013, the couple have also owned another store, called Soccer Supplies, which is at 248 White St. They said they like the visibility of their new location as well as its large parking lot.
Juan said he's aware of how popular the sport of soccer has become in the Danbury community. He spends a lot of time on the soccer fields, cheering for his two small nephews who play the game, as well as for many of his friends.
"People see us and feel comfortable with us, and then come into the store to shop," Mayra said.
Juan said he plays soccer in an adult indoor winter soccer team at the Danbury War Memorial.
Both Juan and Mayra were born in Ecuador. "We're fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English, so this helps us communicate with our customers," Mayra said.
Juan said, "America is the place of dreams; you have to work hard and never give up."
Hal Meeker, who owns the building where Vazquez SoccerChamp Sports is located, said Meeker's Hardware was founded by his great-grandfather Oscar Meeker and has been in his family ever since.
Meeker said he closed the hardware store because none of his three children were interested taking over. "They all went into different careers. I'm the last generation," said Meeker, who is 66 and is now retired.
"I worked at Meeker's Hardware since I was 8 years old. I used to work for free. When I got older, my father decided to pay me 50 cents an hour. I thought I was rich," Meeker chuckled.
Vazquez SoccerChamp Sports is at 90 White St. For more information, call 203-730-8075 or click here .
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