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New Canaan Friends Open Athletic Specialty Store In Fairfield

Steve Seelert (L) and Chris Sanford, both of New Canaan, have opened specialty athletic shop The Authentic Athlete in Fairfield this week. (Credit: Terry Dinan)
Steve Seelert (L) and Chris Sanford, both of New Canaan, have opened specialty athletic shop The Authentic Athlete in Fairfield this week. (Credit: Terry Dinan)
Two New Canaan friends with more than 25 years experience in the retail business between them are for the first time kicking off their own athletic specialty shop in Fairfield Thursday.

"We're two hometown kids who grew up in New Canaan," said Steve Seelert, 40, a New Canaan resident with a wife and three kids. "We're two locals starting our own business."

Seelert and his partner, 30-year-old Chris Sanford, are both graduates of New Canaan High School. Sanford now lives in Fairfield with his wife and their three children, closer to their new store. Seelert is a entrepreneur with experience in the wholesale industry while Sanford was manager of a shoe store in New Canaan for more than 15 years.

"We decided to go off on our own and start a business with customer service-focused retail," Seelert said. "We were both looking to open a store with a fresh look at retail. We had almost identical visions... There's nothing out there right now like what we're offering. I can't wait for people to see how well-thought-out this place is."

Their new venture, The Authentic Athlete, opens officially on Post Road in Fairfield Thursday, though the pair is hosting a soft opening party for family and friends Wednesday evening. Seelert touts the store as a one-stop shop for sporting apparel for everyone from the "weekend warrior to the serious competitive athlete." They also have a small boutique feel that offers a lot of specialty and lesser-known brands than what big chains have to offer that focuses on apparel like sneakers, clothing and accessories and less on hardware like sticks, bats or pads.

"We're retailing well-known brands, but we're staying true to the smaller boutique brands, too," Seelert said. "We have Nike and UnderArmour, but we carry smaller brands like Hoka One One. I think we're the first store in all of Connecticut to carry that brand. It's taking off like crazy."

Opening a new business is a demanding task, but neither Seelert or Sanford have had much downtime. Sanford recently had twins and Seelert just had open heart surgery to remedy an issue he's known about since his teens.

"I had an aortic valve replaced," he said. "I was diagnosed at 15 and, while I was a very good athlete, I think it hindered me from being a better athlete. But knowing about the issue led me to lead an active and healthy lifestyle so I could be in the best shape possible. Now we're opening up a store focused on fitness and working hard as an athlete."

Seelert said they chose Fairfield as their first location to open up shop due to its locale near several schools in a growing town and the isolation from large chain brands who already had established independent locations in New Canaan, but said he'd love to open a location in his hometown as the business grows.

"We don't want people to think that we didn't like New Canaan," he said. "But to help grow vendor relationships and gain licenses, Fairfield seemed like a great location and it's developed so much recently. It's a great college town with a young demographic. There's a huge void for what we're offering in that town. But we would love to eventually open a store in New Canaan."

The store opens its doors at 1863 Post Road, Fairfield, CT 06824 during Thursday's grand opening. The store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

Check back tonight for shots from the store's opening.

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