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About Seybert's Billiard Supply

As told in a recent article in Billiard Retailer Magazine by Travis French.

Seybert's Billiard Supply is one of the most unlikely E-commerce success stories anywhere. Although the company's path to success is anything but common, its winning strategies shouldn't come as a surprise. As evidence by their Web site " www.seyberts.com" these guys (and gals) know the game.

While most successful on-line retailers build their Internet business as an extension of their stores, Seybert's took the road much less traveled: using its successful E-commerce Web site as a springboard to opening a bricks-and-mortar store.

Though its retail store has been successful, Seybert's remains very much an E-commerce phenomenon. The operation even caught the eye of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who cites Seybert's in his book, Business at the Speed of Thought, as an example of how even small businesses can build a big Internet presence.

But, as owners Jim Tong and Sid Kreis are quick to say, it is their knowledge of billiards, not technological wizardry or a sophisticated E-commerce business plan, that has made Seybert's one of the leading billiard E-tailers in the world.

Naturally, it was a love of billiards that brought the partners together. Tong and Kreis were pool-shooting buddies playing in the same local pool league. Tong owns Seybert's Implement Sales & Service, selling farm equipment in the small town of Coldwater, Mich.

Because of his interest in billiards, Tong began selling a few Adams cues from a tiny side room at his dealership.  Kreis, meanwhile, had discovered computing and the Internet.

"I was a meat cutter by trade and managed a meat department in a nearby town. A buddy of mine was a computer guy, and he was bugging me to get a computer and get on the Internet," he says. Once Kreis discovered the internet and the capabilities that were available, he thought, 'What a great medium for catalogs, for marketing and sales.' So I read a few books and built a Web site."

In 1998, Kreis approached Tong about selling cues on the Internet. "Jim said, 'That sounds great. What's the Internet?'" Kreis recalls.

Tong had just started selling the newly debuted Predator cues line out of his tractor dealership and once the new line was introduced on their internet site, it proved to be a match made in billiard heaven. Seybert's is now the No. 1 Predator dealer and has been the number one dealer for a number of years.

Seybert's sells just about anything billiards-related that can be shipped by common carrier: cues, shafts, cases, chalk, racks, books and other accessories. In addition to Predator, Seybert's sells McDermott, Pechauer, Schon, Lucasi and a host of other cue lines including some custom cue makers.

As sales took off, Kreis kept his job at the grocery store for awhile before going to work for Tong's tractor dealership. "We didn't know how this would fly," he says.

It flew just fine. Today, Seybert's ships product all over the world and is known through out as a major Internet Billiard Supply Store.

The company has been especially successful in customizing cues, particularly in pairing Predator shafts with other cue manufacturers cues. Now this practice is common place on the internet, but it was Seybert's foresight that started this approach.

Spurred by Internet sales, the little cue shop quickly expanded to take over more of the tractor dealership, giving the fledgling business room to show some pool tables and accessories. Eventually, the expanding Billiard Supply had grown so large that it was moved down the road to a much larger building for a larger showroom as well as room for stock to be shipped with the internet orders.

In 2000, they incorporated Seybert's Billiard Supply, and Tong brought Kreis in as partner. That store has since expanded to include pool tables, other game tables, pub sets, bars and other furnishings. Everything for the game room.

On-line retail remains the heart of the business, accounting for 75 percent of total sales. Web sales continue to grow. "We started out all retail, but in the last couple of years we've grown our wholesale business, too," Kreis says.

E-commerce has obviously worked for Seybert's, but the company's secret to success has nothing to do with bandwidth or HTML. Tong and Kreis insist that their knowledge and love of the game has driven the company's growth. The manager of Seybert's, Rick Matzke is a BCA certified Billiards Instructor and can usually be seen or heard offering his advice over the new cue purchase or how to handle that new jump cue.

"Everybody in our organization knows billiards," Tong says. "It seems like everyone wants to get into [on-line cue sales] because it's a great product and it's easily shippable. But you have to know what you're selling." 

The company's on-line presence has made Seybert's a bona fide billiard brand, an unlikely triumph of marketing for a single-store operation in a town of 30,000. The store has 15 tables on the floor. "A town like Coldwater really isn't big enough to support that," Kreis

says. "We're drawing shoppers from Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. People drive these distances to come to our store because they've gotten to know us through the Internet."

The company also sponsors billiard tournaments, such as the UPA championships in Las Vegas that were shown on ESPN, the Predator Open World 10-Ball Championships, and the World 14.1 Straight Pool Championships.