A new sporting goods store is preparing to open in the Town and Country Shopping Center on MacArthur Boulevard. Underdog Sports, Memorabilia & Games is the brainchild of Paul Layton and his fiancé, Kelly Pulliam. While the store will sell new and used sporting equipment and memorabilia, it is not your traditional retail business.

Layton explained, “A few different things came together; our family has always had a love for sports. I’m a big brother (through Big Brothers Big Sisters) to two boys and there are not a lot of things for kids to do in Springfield. I’m also a member of the Elks Club, so I wanted to give to those two charities and make a difference in the community.”

In addition to providing a place for parents to purchase affordable sporting equipment for their children, Layton wanted to be able to financially support the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region and Illinois Children’s Care Corporation, which was founded by the Elks of Illinois to help children with special needs.

Layton said, “Whenever we get done paying our employees and our expenses at the end of the day, we’re going to take our proceeds and support those two causes.”

Underdog Sports will occupy the 3600 square foot space at the south end of the shopping center that was previously divided between Schramm Bacher Jewelers and Weight Watchers. While Layton lives in Chatham, he said when he started looking at the data he was impressed with what the MacArthur corridor had to offer. “What first kept us away was wondering why everything was so empty. But then we started looking at traffic patterns, and that area is really a hidden gem. The MacArthur corridor is reaching the same traffic counts as Sixth Street or Veterans Parkway.”

Layton says they are planning to have events such as card swap nights for kids and use the parking lot for outdoor games. He also wants to hold charity fundraisers in the fall and spring. But for now, the main focus is on purchasing enough merchandise to be well-stocked by the time the doors open on July 27.

While Layton hopes to have several employees hired by the holiday season, right now he and other family members will be providing most of the coverage for the store. “We’re planning this as a lean start up, signing the lease was a big step and we did a lot of research prior to selecting that location,” he said.