Olympia Sports was there before the Villas, Snipes and Kicks USAs. I was never sure if it was a Philly franchise. I don’t remember seeing them in other cities when I was younger. I do remember that the store was a staple in other Philly neighborhoods and in Germantown.
There was always going to be one on a major avenue not far from a McDonald’s and a pharmacy. I went to the one on Chelten Ave most often. I knew when I was very young that a trip to Olympia meant Easter or a special occasion was approaching. We went to the avenue for shopping trips for the holidays or to get a special outfit for a big event at church
Inside it was set up like a traditional sneaker store, most shoes along the walls with a few racks or shelves of other items. I was most intrigued by the clusters of sneakers wrapped in plastic hanging from racks.
It was also a store where people went to get their clothes. These days it’s become normal and “the thing” for teenagers to wear the big European designers like Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton, no matter where they’re from or how much they or their families can actually afford. When I was a teen, that wasn’t the case. You could get a t-shirt from the corner store and if you made it look good, then it was ok to wear. Stores like Olympia Sports offered cheap street-fashion wear. You could look fashionable and trendy without spending a lot of money.
I’m still not sure whether the rumored rivalry between Olympia Sports and City Blue was official or just something we made up as kids. But I’m grateful for the role that Olympia Sports played at a time when a lot of us didn’t have much.