EAST COUNTY — After Jackie Colacci learned in May that she would not be returning to her job as a special-needs aid at Braden River Elementary, she wanted to take control of her own fate.
She wasted no time in starting her own business — by her rules.
She and her husband, Jack, opened The Art of Soccer, a specialty soccer retail store, in July.
“It was always something we wanted to do — and it was now or never,” Jackie Colacci said. “We chose now.”
A first-time business owner, Colacci, who also was a private investigator for the state of New Jersey for 15 years, runs her store as if she were the customer.
On a recent day, a United States/Mexico World Cup qualifying match blared from a flat-screen television mounted to a wall at the back of the store while the former high school cheerleader clapped and hollered nearby.
Jack Colacci, an on-the-side soccer coach who works in the loss-prevention industry, runs the store when his wife is busy carting their children, Antonio, 15, Nicholas, 11, and Gabriella, 9, to soccer tournaments. Colacci is the ultimate soccer mom, manning the van and bringing juice boxes to games.
Antonio, a Braden River High School student who plays for an academy in Clearwater, calls soccer “an art,” and his parents turned his motto into the store’s name.
The Colacci children usually order their cleats and their favorite players’ jerseys online, although, in the past an order for blue cleats size 10 has been shipped incorrectly — usually a size bigger and the wrong color.
A veteran of the engergetic youth soccer scene, Colacci wants her store to be the one-stop shop that fills all needs.
The store is purely about soccer, unlike other stores that, Colacci says, claim to specialize in the sport but also sell basketball and baseball goods. The Art of Soccer sells soccer-themed lunch boxes, jewelry, flags, mugs, scarves, soccer balls and jerseys. All merchandise is available at various price points, with an average price of $15 to $25.
Any product shoppers want but can’t find, the Colaccis will custom order.
“We have mommy prices and daddy prices,” Colacci said. “I’m not paying $60 for my child’s cleats.”
Colacci Googled, “How to open up a soccer store,” and found vendors and scouted similar stores, all the way to Naples.
Jack Colacci painted the walls of the store and installed the carpet with the help of his father-in-law, a retired owner of a hardware/plumbing business.
The Colaccis invested their savings in the store, leaving no money for advertising, but a Labor Day soccer tournament featuring 300 teams at Premier Sports Academy brought plenty of business and kept the family in their store until 9 p.m.
“We sold out of soccer balls and some jerseys,” Colacci said. “We’ll stay as long as there are people shopping here.”
The Colacci children stay, too, helping their parents run the store after they finish their homework at a desk in the back office.
Sometimes, Colacci’s new job brings her back to teaching as she watches children strive to improve.
“Young children shop here, some who can barely talk right, but they are excited to play soccer,” Colacci says.
Make no mistake, soccer rules.
Next weekend, the Colaccis will load the mini van and travel to another tournament.
But one family member will stay back, running the store.
Contact Josh Siegel at email@example.com.
The Art of Soccer
Owners: Jack and Jackie Colacci
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 4 p.m. Sundays
Address: 8725 State Road 70 E., Bradenton
Services: A family-run specialty retail soccer store.
Facebook page: The Art of Soccer