Joe, foreground, and Ed Garland had Nike, Adidas, New Balance and other brands on display on a row of folding tables at the Cove football camp. Behind the tables, the brothers had dozens of large cardboard boxes with even more selections. (Brad Mosher/The Observer)
Brothers with Eastern Oregon ties travel to football and sports camps throughout the Northwest selling high-quality, surplus athletic shoes to student-athletes for $40 a pair
COVE — Joe Garland and his brother, Ed, definitely made a big impression at the recent Cove football camp.
Size 14 — to be exact, for one player. Another player was focused intently on finding just the right shoe and checking out several while never letting a pair he really liked out of his sight — or grasp.
During a lunch break at the football camp for small schools from Washington, Idaho and Eastern Oregon, the Cove gym became a makeshift shoe store with very simple pricing.
All pairs of shoes were $40.
Not $80 or $120 like some sports shoes might cost, Joe Garland said. “A lot of the parents are spending more than $130.”
At a small town, small school football camp, players from small rural schools were shopping for shoes — and enjoying it.
Originally, the idea the brothers had was to buy surplus shoes from local colleges and professional teams and sell them to area high schools.
It has become much more than that, with a website where parents can buy a large assortment of shoes online, as well as creating a summer circuit of football and sports camps throughout the Northwest. The brothers, both raised in Eastern Oregon, travel with a large trailer of shoes.
In the Cove gym, players from Washington state’s Sunnyside Christian and White Swan schools were among those examining the shoes, alongside players from Echo and Cove.
For the budding prep football players from small towns in three states at the football camp, it was a chance to have a big shoe store come to them.
But for the Garland brothers, it was more than just business.
Both have been involved in sports all their lives. Ed used to work for the University of Oregon’s equipment department. He was a student manager at the university for seven years, before moving on to be an assistant equipment manager. He also was the head equipment manager at the University of California, Berkeley for seven years, until 2011.
But the brothers were looking for something new to do and be able to work together.
Then they got the idea about reselling surplus shoes.
It hasn’t quite turned out the way the La Grande native and his brother had planned. “We were just going to buy the shoes and sell them online,” Joe Garland said.
Now, there is a lot more travel involved in the business.
Shoe U deals in surplus athletic footwear online, selling shoes that college and professional teams had purchased, but never used.
To the colleges and teams, the shoes are just overstock. They are also still new in the boxes.
But the brothers now spend a lot of their time on the road during the summer months.
“From May through Labor Day we are extremely busy,” Joe Garland said. “We take our trailer loaded with shoes to high schools and small colleges around the Northwest and attend numerous football camps and clinics. It keeps us very busy and on our toes.”
For the Garland brothers, the shoes have created a new business that keeps them still involved in sports. “We saw an opportunity to help schools and athletes purchase new shoes at a discounted price,” the brothers explained on the company website. “These are brand-new shoes that are still in the box, and are a year removed from the current line of shoes the manufacturer requires major college players to wear on game day.”
Since colleges were restricted from donating shoes to high schools or players because of possible recruiting violations, the shoes were usually warehoused. Sometimes, that could mean as many as 500 pairs of shoes were not being used, Joe Garland said during a quiet moment in the Cove gym.
Behind him, his brother, Ed, was still looking for a size 14 pair of shoes for a quarterback/defensive lineman from Council, Idaho.
The Garlands had Nike, Adidas, New Balance and other brands on display on a row of folding tables. Behind the tables, the brothers had dozens of large cardboard boxes with even more selections.
The business isn’t completely focused on the football shoes. The company website also has listings for shoes designed for lacrosse, basketball, rugby, softball, soccer, golf, track and field, tennis, volleyball and wrestling. They all have the same pricing, according to Joe Garland. The shoes are no more than $40, with a few priced even less.
The company is based in Salem, but on weekends the brothers may be on the road, traveling to different high school sports camps.
“A lot of these coaches said if we wanted to come over and set up tables at the camps for the kids,” Joe Garland said. “This was the second year we attended the Cove 8-man football camp and we have already made plans with Camp Director Jason Gorman to return again next year.”
The two brothers will be back in La Grande July 22 when they will be at Eastern Oregon University for another football camp.
According to Tim Camp, the head football coach at EOU and the instructor at the Cove camp, having the shoe company there made the camp that much better. “It was a win-win. It is great for the camp. It is great for the kids, coming here and buying good football shoes for just $40,” he said.
Joe Garland said he enjoys the trip out to Eastern Oregon. He was born in La Grande and graduated from Vale High School in the late 1970s. His brother graduated from Ontario High School in 1981. He still has strong ties to the Grande Ronde Valley. “My dad coached Bill Burns years ago,” Joe Garland said. Burns is now the athletic director at La Grande High School.
Garland’s father also played football at EOU for Archie Dunsmoor, he added. Dunsmoor is still the only football coach at EOU to have won a conference title in the sport. He did it in 1956, when he guided the then Eastern Oregon College Mountaineers to a win over Southern Oregon College in Ashland to claim the crown.