The Equipment Insider

Jones Sports Co. digs into roots for its future

Jones Sports Co. has come a long way from when company namesake George Jones hand-crafted golf bags and sold them from the trunk of his taxi cab in the early 1970s. Today, the brand is keenly aware of its history in readying for 50th anniversary

As 2021 quickly approaches, Jones Sports Co. is gearing up for a milestone celebration — 50 years in the golf industry as a leading designer and manufacturer of golf lifestyle equipment,

What began as company namesake George Jones’ vision and passion for hand-crafting golf bags in his Portland, Ore., basement and selling them out of the trunk of his taxi cab eventually morphed into the must-have bag in the 1970s and ‘80s.

That success was met with some dark years after George sold the company in 1990. The new owners wanted to change much of what made the bags unique in order to compete with larger golf bag manufacturers. The strategy failed and resulted in the company’s decline.

In 2011, Jones Sports Co. was acquired by the Lemman family — father Dean and two sons, Matt and Tim, plus a fourth partner, Chris Carnahan. Carnahan played collegiate and mini tour golf. That first-hand knowledge lends itself to knowing what golfers want and need in a bag.

This foursome had one major goal — to revive the Jones name and bring back the functional simplicity of its iconic bags.

Morning Read contributor Janice Ferguson recently spoke with Matt Lemman, partner/sales director, about the past, present and future of Jones Sports Co. in the run-up to the company’s 50th anniversary.

Jones Sports Co. — Lancer carry golf bag
Since 1971, Jones Sports Co. has followed a straightforward philosphy in producing its golf bags — functional simplicity.

Morning Read: You have mentioned the timing of Instagram’s launch just ahead of when your family took over the Jones company nine years ago. Can you expand on that a little?

Matt Lemman: In the beginning, our first strategy was to go back and rekindle relationships with the buyers and followers who were passionate about Jones golf bags back in the day. Then we hit hard with social media campaigns on Instagram and managed to connect with a whole new generation of Jones fans — 18- to 24-year-olds who now make up about 60 percent of our business.

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19th Hole #playjones like @stuartlkerr

A post shared by Jones Sports Co. (@jones_sports_co) on

MR: Why do you believe a throwback, retro brand like Jones appeals to Gen Yers?

Lemman: Well, for one thing, a lot of people don’t want to carry a bag that is blazon with logos. Our bags are simple, but functional. Our logo is cool and tastefully subtle — it represents the Pacific Northwest and enjoying the outdoors. The other thing is how we connect via social media, but I also always relate the appeal to something like a Jordan shoe. It never goes out of style — I still buy Jordan sneakers. Or like how Ray-Ban sunglasses have stood the test of time while hundreds of new optical companies enter the space. It’s a classic look, a classic brand that’s still fresh and appeals to people of all ages.

MR: Let’s talk about the future. What does it mean to be part of Jones’ 50-year anniversary?

Lemman: It’s an honor to bring this brand back alive and see all of the positive response. I speak for everyone here when I say we truly appreciate the support that we’ve received in our nine years running Jones. And to think that we now have an opportunity to be a part of a major milestone keeping George Jones’ legacy alive is as cool as it is humbling.

MR: So what new things can we expect to see next year?

Lemman: We have two major releases planned. The first one will be in February 2021 and will be the Futuristic collection that includes some more modern twists to the bags — tweaking the pockets a bit. Stuff that’s a little outside the box that we haven’t dabbled in yet, while still staying true to the brand message.

The second release in July will be a Heritage/Vintage collection of products honoring George Jones and featuring a cool design that celebrates how he first began out of the trunk of his taxi cab. The two themes represent connecting the
present to the past, and the present to the future. Moving forward with a healthy respect of our beginnings.

Jones Sports Co. — Duffle
The Varsity duffle is one of the many accessories that Jones Sports Co. has added to its product line since founder George Jones began the company in his Portland, Ore., basement in 1971.

MR: What is the Jones Sports Co. brand message?
Lemman: Simple. That Jones is here to stay.

In addition to carry and stand bags like the Utility Trouper 2.0, which is debuting soon and has a bigger top and will hold four beverage cans versus two, we also have cart coolers and shag bags with coolers, backpacks, duffles, daypacks, totes, shoe bags, laptop sleeves, clip speakers, flasks, zipper pouches, charger pouches, dopp kits, wine bags, towels, t-shirts and hats.

The products represent a lifestyle that is conveyed in the company’s hashtag #BeyondTheFairway and that also embody Jones’ view of how golf should be played — simply and enjoyably.

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