We have lost a “Giant from the Sporting Goods Industry” and a Great man who led a great family:Dean Harrison with Graham Sporting Goods is no longer with us

Posted by Andy Durham on December 12, 2019 at 2:07 am under Amateur, College, High School, Professional | 6 Comments to Read

A “Giant from the Sporting Goods Industry”…Great father, grandfather and the man who loved to play golf and spend time with his family…

This was a shocker when I read the piece here online this early Thursday morning and saw Dean Harrison, Mr. Graham Sporting Goods in Greensboro is GONE…Gone at 62 years old….He just celebrated his birthday back on November 18…Born back in 1957, the same year many of us were…

Knew Dean, his wife Susan, and sons Alex and Bradley very well from the days of Graham Sporting Goods, just off of West Wendover Avenue, on Carnegie Place…I knew Dean when I was coaching basketball back in 1980 and I went into his newly opened sporting goods store on West Market Street, in the Price Place Shopping Center…I was in there to see Dean, he was just recently graduated from Western Carolina University and this was his own store, and I was buying those basketball practice jerseys from Dean..

Those were great jerseys and those new basketball practice jerseys were part of the movement to reversible jerseys, with numbers on both sides so you could flip/reverse the jersey and with numbers on both sides, they were great/excellent for practices…I can still ole’ Jason Burcham wearing his today, as I drift back to 1980….

This is a shocker losing Dean Harrison…He had some major heart blockage a couple of years ago, but the doctors had found it in time and they discovered the blockage during a checkup, and I’m thinking it was a fairly routine checkup…

Dean Harrison gone…And you miss this guy right away…He was so strong and knowledgeable in the Sporting Goods field….

Dean would do you right on your sporting goods needs and his family is still keeping the family business going today…

From back in the day, in the Sporting Goods business here in Greensboro, you had Gary Thomas over at Bocock-Stroud, there was Ken Gordon, Dave Farris, Jeff Swammey and others over at Sports and Hobbies Unlimited and then onto the scene comes Dean, in 1980, over at the Price Place Shopping Center, with Graham Sporting Goods….

And that was Graham Sporting Goods…Not Graham’s Sporting Goods…Was not owned by the Graham’s, but was owned and started by the Harrisons down in Graham, North Carolina, thus Graham Sporting Goods….Pretty sure the Harrisons, Deans mom and dad started the sporting goods store out of hardware store/drugstore, and the sporting goods eventually took off and supplanted all of the hardware/drugstore items…

Baseball and softball were huge for the Harrisons at Graham Sporting Goods, in Graham, back in 1970’s…Dean worked with his parents and his brother and sisters, at the Graham Sporting Goods store, in Graham, while Dean was still going college at WCU…

I think Dean and his team were selling softball gear to the Rubi Otts women’s softball team, back in the early days of the Graham Sporting Goods Store, there in Graham…Kay Yow and her sisters, Debbie and Susan, were on that world famous women’s softball team back in the day….

For Dean Harrison, the day is done….All of the days are done and they are gone…Dean is gone, but his memories will live on…He was a great one and always so fair, and he cared about getting everything done right, and you don’t see that, that much any more these days….

Dean even coached youth football for the Greensboro Parks and Recreation program…Not sure if Dean had his own team, but he may have been coaching with Henry Bondurant, or helping out with the Lewis Redskins/Lewis Panthers teams…

Kind of got used to seeing Dean wearing a white ball cap when I went by the Graham Sporting Goods store in recent years, when they were still located on Carnegie Place…

Many times that cap may have served as a golf cap….Dean used to love to play golf with his Wednesday golfing group….Dean, Brett Stell, and Eddie Waynick were regulars over the years, and Dean really missed Eddie Waynick, when Eddie passe away, a year or two back…

Dean told me to be sure and get something up here on the site about Eddie, and I was glad to do so….

Putting this up here now about Dean is not the way you want to end your day, or start your early morning, but this is important….

Dean Harrison was a Sporting Goods pioneer in our town…He brought Graham Sporting Goods to Greensboro…..

I am going to miss this guy, since he was such a innovator in the Sporting Goods field…Sometimes Dean was like a one-man band in his store on West Market Street…He was wearing many hats, back in those early days…..Sell to the individuals, sell to the teams, sell to the individuals that ran and coached teams…

Dean’s time is done and we will miss Dean Harrison….Dean it took hard when Kevin Callahan passed away, and the former Southeast Guilford Falcons’ baseball coach had just joined Dean full time at Graham Sporting Goods, right about the time Kevin passed away…

He would do anything he could for you, that is how Dean Harrison operated and did his business…

Again, Dean Harrsion gone and he will be missed….

RIP Dean Harrison(November 18, 1957-December 11, 2019)

Here is the Dean Harrison obituary from today’s News and Record online and if you CLICK HERE it will take you to a great photo of Dean Harrison, with a super smile on his face…Looks just like him and this is how we will remember him….

NOVEMBER 18, 1957 – DECEMBER 11, 2019

Mr. Earl Dean Harrison, Jr., 62, died Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital.

He is survived by his wife, Susan of Summerfield, NC; sons, Scott of Summerfield, Alex and wife Kaitlyn and their daughter, Lilly of Stoney Creek and Bradley and wife Alison and their daughters, Savannah and Charlotte of Greensboro; mother, Phoebe Harrison of Elon; and sisters, Connie Styers of Greensboro and Kim Vaughn of Elon. He is preceded in death by his father, Earl Harrison. Dean graduated from Hugh M. Cummings High School in Burlington, NC in 1976 and received a BS in business administration from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. There he was a member of Theta Xi fraternity and remained friends with many of his brothers.

Upon college graduation in 1980, Dean opened a Graham Sporting Goods in Greensboro, NC. He first conceived the idea of a local sporting goods to his parents 43 years ago. Hence, Graham Sporting Goods is now in its third generation of Harrisons and continues to always put customer service first.

Dean was a man of faith, always putting God and family first. He was a member of Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC, where he served as a former deacon. He believed in keeping family close and enjoyed spending time with them not only at home but also at their beach home in Sunset Beach, NC.

His pride and joy were his granddaughters. He loved playing golf and spent many afternoons on the golf course with some of his closest friends.

Funeral services will be held at Lawndale Baptist Church, 3505 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro, NC on Friday, December 13, 2019. Visitation with the family will be held from 11 until 11:45 a.m. at the church with the funeral service beginning at 12 p.m. The committal service will follow at Alamance Memorial Park in Burlington, NC. A reception will follow the burial at the residence of his mother, Mrs. Phoebe Harrison. Rich & Thompson Funeral and Cremation Service in Burlington is assisting the family. Condolences may be offered at www.richandthompson.com. Rich & Thompson Funeral and Cremation Service 306 Glenwood Ave., Burlington, NC 27215

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Here is the history of Graham Sporting Goods from the Graham Sporting Goods website:
Then
In 1976, Earl Harrison walked away from a cozy job with Bell Laboratories after 18 years and with his wife, Phoebe opened up a small sporting goods store in downtown Graham, NC. The Harrisons, who had no previous business experience, called it Graham Sporting Goods. Located one block from the county courthouse, the store’s main selling points were a soda fountain and a collection of athletic socks. It was an inauspicious start. But despite the risk, the two felt they had no choice. Bell Laboratories had told Harrison he would have to transfer to New Jersey if he wanted to keep his job. “I couldn’t go,” Harrison said. “I had one son about to go to college and two others in high school. So we couldn’t go. I elected to leave the company.”

Today, the family owns four sporting goods stores in the area. There is one in Greensboro, two in Burlington and the original in Graham. Success has been a mixture of happenstance and prudent moves.Harrison said that after his decision to leave Bell Laboratories, the family knew that it wanted to go into some type of business in the area but didn’t know precisely what that would be. It was his wife, he said, who first noticed that a downtown drugstore was going out of business. “We were looking for something,” she said. “Earl would come up with something, and I would say no. I’d come up with something like ladies’ apparel, and he would say no… I just thought (the drugstore site) was a good place for business.”

The evening that she spotted the upcoming vacancy, the family discussed the site’s potential. It was son Dean, who had just graduated from high school, who suggested opening up a sporting goods store. A week after the drugstore closed, the Harrisons opened Graham Sporting Goods. While Harrison finished out his remaining year with Bell Laboratories, his wife ran the store. The soda fountain, left over from the drugstore days, produced most of the business. Sporting goods were in short supply. Most sporting vendors, aware that sporting goods stores have a high failure rate, were reluctant to supply the store with merchandise credit. “You can imagine what they thought when you said, “Send it to Graham Sporting Goods and Soda Fountain,” she said. Gradually, with a $20,000 loan, The Harrisons started to beef up the store’s inventory. Besides concentrating on retail sales, the couple began to see the business provided by recreational leagues that sponsor sports such as softball.

In 1979, they opened a second store in Cum Park Plaza Shopping Center in east Burlington. Although the shopping center’s management wanted a different store name, the Harrisons stuck with the original. “If it was good enough to start with, it was good enough to on go with.” Harrison said.

Two years later, Earl and Phoebe went to visit Dean at college. They told him that rather than give him a car as a graduation present, they were prepared to help him start another sporting goods store. The younger Harrison, who along with sisters Connie and Kim helped the family with the stores after school, accepted. A month after graduation, Dean with his new wife Susan opened Graham Sporting Goods in Greensboro. The fourth store – and second in Burlington- followed a year later.

Now
Over thirty-six years later not much has changed. Graham Sporting Goods is still owned and operated by the Harrison family. There are now two retail locations one in Greensboro and the other in Burlington. Dean and his wife Susan still own and operate the Greensboro location with help from their three sons Scott, Alex and Bradley. Earl and Phoebe”s youngest daughter Kim and her husband Roger own and operate the Burlington location.

Dean and Susan (with help from their middle son Alex) took the Graham Sporting Goods name onto the web in 2012. The core values passed down from Earl and Phoebe still hold true today. The third generation Harrisons have started graduating from college and have begun to help the family business grow in these constantly changing and sometimes challenging times. The focus of the family and the store is still the same whether you visit us in our store or on our website. We strive to help athletes and fans take the field: dressed, equipped and ready to play while giving our customers the best customer service, price and quality we can.


  • Andy Durham said,

    Another good thing about Dean’s Graham Sporting Goods store was that he had some great sports posters hanging on the walls in his place…

    Some of those sports posters very nostalgic…..UNC from 1982, N.C. State from 1983, Duke from the early years with Coach K. And he had some real neat baseball posters too…

    Back in the day, NIKE put out some real good stuff when it came to sports posters..

  • Chuckie Brown says: said,

    Bought many a uniform from Dean and Greg out on West Market back in the day.

    Had a few gloves restrung there also.

    RIP Dean

  • Andy Durham said,

    I’m thinking that would have been Dean and Greg Gordon…Greg the dad of Bryson Gordon and leader of the Gordon family…

    Dean had it going at Graham Sporting Goods back in the day….Greg Gordon worked there, Kevin Callahan worked there, and former WG football and baseball coach and now WG athletic director, Chris Causey worked there too…..

    Probably a lot of others there withe Dean over the years too….Surely Susan, Alex and Bradley put their days in at the Graham Sporting Goods…..

  • Chuckie Brown says: said,

    Andy that is correct.

    Greg Gordon from over around NEG high school area.

    Dean always was a customer first guy. They were pretty busy over there at the start of the youth sports and slow pitch softball seasons.

    Always thought it was funny that Graham Sporting Goods had two stores in Burlington and Burlington Sporting Goods was in Graham. Dean would always snicker when I asked him about that.

    Rest easy Dean

  • Jason Simmons said,

    So very sorry to hear about the passing of Dean. I was fortunate to get into this profession and meet Dean, his wife and family, when I began my teaching and coaching career 20+ years ago. Dean took care of his customers. He took care of me. Prayers for the family.

  • 77hornet said,

    I bought softball uniforms for my church team from Dean back in 1981 when they were on W.Market street in the Price Place shopping center.
    In 2008 I bought uniforms for Guilford Middle School’s baseball team when I was their coach, from Dean also.
    Got Palomino jerseys from Dean as well.
    He & Susan always took great care of us!
    My condolences to the family.
    Bill Ahrens