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August 11, 2021

Sports apparel business celebrates expansion in Derby

PHOTOS | Liese Klein Family members and city officials cut the ribbon at International Soccer and Rugby Imports’ new headquarters on Coon Hollow Road in Derby.

A family business celebrated a new home and hope for growth on Wednesday at a ribbon-cutting for the new International Soccer and Rugby Imports headquarters at 55 Coon Hollow Rd. in Derby.

Owner Gus Avalos Sr. said, “It's very emotional... All the stuff that we went through, all the hoops that we jumped over to get to where we are — I believe in destiny.” 

International Soccer and Rugby Imports supplies customized logo gear for sports teams.

The 30,000-square-foot building on Coon Hollow Road had been owned by the city since 2018, since the closure of a sheltered workshop for those with special needs. Avalos bought the building for $450,000 and spent $550,000 on a buildout with help from the Small Business Administration. 

The Connecticut Green Bank is helping with a pending project to install solar panels on the roof. 

The Derby facility will be home to International Soccer and Rugby Imports' embellishment operation, which embroiders names and logos on shirts and other gear for soccer, baseball, softball and other sports teams. With the new space, the company hopes to attract new corporate clients as well as a wider range of sports teams.

Owner Gus Avalos Sr. speaks at the ribbon-cutting for the new headquarters of his business in Derby.

The company’s products are sold at four retail outlets, all run by members of the Avalos family. 

International Soccer and Rugby Imports’ move is part of a city effort to improve the area around Coon Hollow Road,  Derby Mayor Rich Dziekan said.

“We are building this area up,” Dziekan said. “Welcome to this great company.”

The regional water authority plans to build a new water tank on an adjacent hill to improve water pressure, Dziekan said, and the presence of highway access and Griffin Hospital nearby should draw additional businesses to the area. 

Bill Purcell, president of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he was glad to see the building, once home to a nonprofit work program for those with special needs, return to Derby’s tax rolls.

“It’s a great American story,” Purcell said of the expansion of International Soccer and Rugby Imports. 

For Avalos, he’s looking forward to 2022 as a boom year for the company, with soccer’s World Cup scheduled to take place and recent big moves in the sport, like superstar Lionel Messi’s decision to sign with Paris Saint-Germain. Messi fans will need new shirts, he said. 

The pandemic decimated sales and has held up shipments of his company’s raw materials from Asia, Avalos said. Even so, he’s looking forward to expanding into his new space. 

“We’ll get through this and next year I’m really hoping,” Avalos said. 

Contact Liese Klein at

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