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Traveling Salesman: Sparks resident makes living in athletic sales
by Dan Eckles
Jul 19, 2013 | 2818 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - Sparks resident Gary Karsten feels like his car is his second office at time. The Eastbay salesmen is often on the go, meeting with local coaches about their apparel and equipment needs.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - Sparks resident Gary Karsten feels like his car is his second office at time. The Eastbay salesmen is often on the go, meeting with local coaches about their apparel and equipment needs.
If the average person changes jobs five to seven times in their lifetime, than Gary Karsten is average. Of course that's only when it comes to that single statistic. The long-time Sparks resident has changed jobs more than his fair share of times, but he's a pretty darned good salesman.

The Sacramento State graduate earned a degree in marketing and he's been marketing himself and a variety of products and services ever since. Karsten has been in sales with Dow Chemical, American Greetings, Brand Athletics and now Eastbay. He's sold everything from greeting cards to football helmets and plenty in between.

"I've always been in sales, just different types," he said. "I don't sit behind a desk. I used to do that. I don't wear a tie anymore either and that's nice."

Karsten got into athletic sales three years ago when he hooked on with Brand Athletics, a small company based in suburban Portland, Ore. Brand was later sold to Lids. Three months ago, Karsten left Lids and now works for Eastbay.

Eastbay, known worldwide for its catalog and internet sales, allows Karsten to sell a myriad of athletic brands. While with Brand and Lids, he was limited to just Nike sales. Karsten is still a big proponent of Nike, but the ability to sell Adidas, Under Armour and many other products opens even more doors.

But that's not the only reason he made the jump to Eastbay.

"The name recognition is the biggest reason," he said. "Most coaches know about Eastbay. They get the catalog but now they can deal with me through team sales. They're able to get everything under one roof.

"My goal is to get my name and the Eastbay name out there, to let know people know there is a local person here, not just a catalog or an online company. Now they can meet face to face and sit down with someone showing them samples. Eastbay is not just a traditional online company."

The move to athletic sales is not a stretch. Karsten grew up around sports during his childhood and teen years in Sacramento. His father was a highly successful prep and junior college basketball coach in northern California. Now Karsten spends his days talking with coaches and athletic event organizers about the best clothing and equipment for their needs.

Karsten moved to Sparks in 1993 and has been in the Rail City since. His wife Becky teaches at a Sparks elementary school while his son Michael (16) and daughter Kayla will be a junior and sophomore respectively at Reed High in east Sparks.

The veteran salesman travels frequently outside the Truckee Meadows. He says he wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

"The Sparks community is great," Karsten said. "Both of my kids have played youth sports in Sparks. I've coached soccer, basketball, baseball. It's just a great community. It's tight-knit. I love the schools. I love it here," he said. "It's a great family town. It's got a small-town feel."

Karsten said the switch to Eastbay team sales has been a positive move. It's one he's glad to have made.

"I'm loving it. I'm able to get the Kobe (Bryant) basketball shows for volleyball teams. I can get them any shoe out there, before I was limited to team shoes. Eastbay is opening more doors. The business is changing. Now parents are paying more for sports. It's almost become pay to play. We are able to set up VIP team stores where parents can buy team products so it's taking work out of the coach's hands.

"Everyday is different. I spend most days talking to coaches. Twenty five percent of the time we're talking business and the other 75 percent of the time we're talking about their season. It's fun to sit down and build relationships."

Karsten certainly stays busy. He coaches the boys freshmen basketball team at Reed and also officiates middle school and high school basketball here in the area.

"Eastbay wants its salesmen to be out and about in the community," he said. "We have a lacrosse coach, a baseball coach. I coach basketball. The winter can get a little crazy between coaching, selling and officiating. But you get to meet cool people.

"I spend many an evening in gyms, at football fields or soccer practices, watching all kinds of games and practices. That's what I really like, talking to coaches ... It's better than diggin' ditches."
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