The Legend and Origin of Honig's Whistle Stop Inc
Dick Honig was an official in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and was crewed with four officials from the Columbus, Ohio area. Two of the crew, along with others, started an officiating supply company named Sox n’ Jox.
The owners (four) were struggling with the management of the company as they all had other jobs. A flooded basement was the final straw and they agreed to sell the name and what inventory remained to me. That was in 1980. We opened for business in 1981, housed in my basement in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
We basically had no mailing list and there was no internet at that time. I was fortunate in that I was working both football and basketball in the MAC and had worked 10 years in high school football and basketball in Michigan.
Thus, I had access to a lot of officials. I also had my dad (Len) who had just retired to answer the phones in my absence (I was still working my regular job).
In 1980 there was only one company whose sole business was officiating supplies. That was Bug Officials Supply, owned by Edmund Gildersleeve and it was in California. Sox n’ Jox was number two. 1981 and 1982 were two particularly good years for the company and in 1983 I had an offer from the company that was doing some manufacturing for us to go to work for them and incorporate the officiating supply business into their sporting goods lines. That happened but lasted only about 6 months and I resigned to seek other opportunities. Sox n’ Jox stayed.
In May of 1984 Honig’s Whistle Stop Inc. was born. I figured that with 3 years in the business I could do things better than I had previously done. I had a friend develop a computer system and we were off and running. I still used the company where I was employed, to produce a lot of our soft goods. In that initial year we printed a catalog and mailed out about twenty thousand copies. We also started to travel to association meeting and various officiating clinics in the mid-west. Over the next few years, we did a lot of traveling which effectively got our products in front of a lot of potential customers.
For a number of years, we made an annual voyage to Louisiana and Texas prior to the baseball season – selling umpiring equipment. We scheduled different groups in different cities over a 10-day swing – sell at their evening meetings, getting up the next morning and travel to the next site. We did so well that we had to ship supplies ahead to have enough product to sell. My dad again joined me in the new company and handled the phone orders. He was so good at interacting with the customers that many would only talk to him to place their orders. Later that year I hired my first employee, a young man that was just out of the Service and looking for employment – Bill Hoseney. Bill became the General Manager and was with Honig’s until 2016. He was a major reason that we continued to grow over the years.
Around 1986 a new company was started in California – Sports Officiating Supply (SOS) and was primarily a baseball supply company. Honig’s established a working relationship with SOS to buy their baseball protective equipment. That lasted for a number of years until Honig’s establish their own line – importing mostly from a supplier in Tiawan. Thanks to a friend, Chip Strap, who ran the Spotbilt Shoe line for Hyde Athletic (the best officiating shoe of that period – the ripple sole) I was introduces to Lynn Olmstead. Lynn was selling for a number of foreign manufacturers, and we thus became an importer of officiating items and apparel. This allowed us to be very competitive in the marketplace.
Over the next few years, Honig’s established locations in Florida, Texas, Oregon, California, Colorado, North Carolina, Connecticut, Canada, and Europe (Prague). The purpose with these distributors was to get in front as many officials as possible. These operations were quite successful but with the explosion of internet shopping the value of these locations decreased. By 2016 we had closed all the locations except for Colorado. With the advent of the internet, sales via a website became the purchase method. Having locations around the country became less important as an official could sit at his/her computer and shop and price compare all the now numerous officiating supply house. Honigs.com became a reality.
Career Highlights - Richard “Dick” Honig
- Short Stop for National Champion - University of Michigan Baseball 1962
- University of Michigan Asst. Baseball Coach 1963-1968
- University of Michigan Asst. Basketball Coach 1966-1973
- Started Honig’s Whistle Stop in 1984 in Ann Arbor, MI
- Became industry leader in providing uniforms for officials on network TV 1986
- Mid American Conference Football Referee 1974-1982
- Mid American Conference Basketball Referee 1978-2001
- Big 10 Football Referee 1983-2004
- Big 10 Football Replay Officia 2005-2016
- Big 10 Foorball Network TV Analyst 2017-2021
- Officiated 15 NCAA Bowl Games
- Referee for over 350 Division 1 College Football Games