McNamara Sports, a name synonymous with family-owned local business, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
To memorialize this incredible milestone, family members handed out 100 special T-shirts during a celebration at the downtown store on May 12. The shirt features a timeline of the many logo phases the business has gone through.
“This business has dealt with continual change and adaptations over these 100 years — changes in consumer needs, changes in the town, changes in product,” said Dan McNamara, the third generation owner and manager of the store. “The one thing consistent about this place are the three generations of family members who have ran the business.”
A photo gallery set up for the anniversary event depicted the many memories created over the century. Family members and supporters enjoyed games, music, refreshments and stories about the business.
The original McNamara store was located at 1737 L Street (now Canal Street). In 1923, Fred Bedesen and Jack McNamara purchased the hardware business from downtown businessman C.E. Kocher. They formed Bedesen and McNamara Hardware, selling farm gear and becoming the first Ford Tractor dealer in Merced County.
Bedesen died in 1946, and McNamara bought the Bedesen interest from his estate and changed the name of the business to McNamara’s Hardware Company.
In 1952, McNamara purchased the telephone company building adjacent to the hardware store and moved his toy department into the building, naming it McNamara’s Toyland. The address for Toyland was 518 W 18th Street.
Jack McNamara retired after 40 years in 1963, turning the leadership over to sons Tom and Steve McNamara. Afterward, the back room and storage area on 18th St. was converted into a Sporting Good Department. A Ski Shop on the mezzanine expanded in 1966, and the store began organizing Ski Bus Trips to Dodge Ridge.
McNamara Sports grew in the late 1970s and ’80s while the Hardware Department was discontinued. By 1986, the business included a restaurant, ice cream parlor, art gallery, gourmet food, house wares and gifts, as well as sporting goods.
Many Merced residents today still remember the glory days of the McNamara complex at the corner of 18th and Canal. Unfortunately, in 1987, the entire McNamara building was destroyed by fire.
McNamara Sports eventually relocated to the corner of Olive and G Street, inside Payless Plaza. Dan McNamara, a recent graduate of Fresno State, returned to Merced to help his dad Steve reestablish McNamara Sports. Tom and Patty McNamara reopened McNamara Gifts in the spring of 1988 on North G St which they closed in 1991 to seek new careers.
In 1991, the original downtown site was redeveloped into McNamara Plaza, a multi-retail complex. Clarice McNamara opened Khakis, a men’s and women’s clothing store in McNamara Plaza and in 1994 opened a second Khakis in Sacramento.
Dan McNamara continued to grow McNamara Sports as general manager and a partner in the business. In 2018, the business returned to downtown, at 437 W. 18th St., a block away from its original home.
Dan’s daughters Brittany and Courtany McNamara work in the shop — marking four generations of family members in the business.
Today McNamara Sports specializes in screen printing and embroidery. They remain a favorite shop for schools and sports leagues in need of team uniforms.