The History of T & B Sports: From Western Wear to Athletic Equipment
For decades, San Rafael has been a major hub for athletics in Marin. From high schools like Terra Linda and San Rafael to professional teams like the Pacifics, the community has continued to crave sports year after year. A leading provider to this widespread craze is T & B Sports, located on the corner of 4th and D. T & B has it all-— bats, pads, shoes, helmets, gloves, and the most mesmerizing collection of fan gear one could find. Although athletic equipment is what runs the business today, T & B was created with a slightly different vision.
“Originally our store was split in half. Half western gear, half sporting goods. Hats, boots, down to saddles, bits. Everything you need for horses,” said Jeff Brusati, store president. “Later, it morphed to athletics only because that was really the core of our business.” The store opened in 1946: an era in San Rafael when western wear was a thriving commodity. At the time, the store was across the street from its current location under the name Taveggia-Brusati Sport and Saddle Shop.
“It was started by my father [Rome Brusati], who’s cousin is [Anthony] Taveggia,” said Brusati. He noted that Anthony Taveggia never worked a single day in the store. His name is in the brand because of his financial investments during the launch of the store.
While T & B Sports stays successful primarily through equipment and fan gear, one of its most valued sales is its custom made jerseys. Throughout little leagues, basketball organizations, and high schools of Marin, T & B has been outfitting athletes for decades.
Years back, the store also supplied jerseys to the University of California, Berkeley. “We used to even supply uniforms for the Oakland Raiders,” Brusati proudly told me. “We knew the people involved with the Raiders, and we serviced them for about six years in the 70’s.”
Even in the past few years, T & B has continued to evolve. This is most noticeable in the fan gear stock. “Fan gear has really changed over the years,” Brusati said. “It wasn’t a big deal a few years ago.” The massive spark in fan gear sales at T & B started in 2010 during the Giants World Series run.
“When they hit the world series, it was huge. People were basically buying everything: t-shirts, jerseys, hats, mugs, shot glasses, pennants, you name it. We couldn’t get stuff fast enough.”
Similarly, the Warriors fan gear selection has erupted since the team’s record-breaking 2016 season. “Before,” Brusati explained, “we had one hat and one t-shirt with their standard logo. That was our whole Warriors selection. It wasn’t big like it is up there now.” Nowadays, the first impression a newcomer to the store will get is the astounding Warriors apparel collection located near the front door.
Unfortunately, however, the store’s ability to receive professional team’s merchandise is getting more and more difficult as the years go on. NFL merchandise has already become difficult for T & B to acquire, Brusati claims. “The NFL has chosen to just distribute stuff through big box stores and NFL.com. So [for us], as a small independent store, it’s going to be really tough […] to get merchandise. Unfortunately, the same thing is going to happen with basketball.”
Currently, NBA jerseys are supplied by Adidas, a company who is willing to distribute their products to independent retailers like T & B. However, when Nike takes over NBA apparel next season, Brusati will likely have trouble accessing authentic merchandise.
“Then,” Brusati sighed, “in 2020, Under Armour is going to take over Major League Baseball. It still remains to be seen how they are going to distribute their merchandise.”
Despite these obstacles, Brusati assured me that his past 30 years working at T & B Sports have been filled with joy. “It’s been great!” he exclaimed. “It’s the people. I’ve made a lot of friends throughout the country through sporting goods associations, and getting together with those people is just awesome.”
After we wrapped up our interview, Jeff Brusati walked me to the front door, first stopping by a massive gallery with pictures of little league teams that T & B Sports had sponsored and supplied uniforms for. As we passed the dazzling fan gear selection with far more than one type of Warriors t-shirt, I understood how much the store had adapted to a changing community. The saddles have become catcher’s gear and the cowboy boots have become soccer cleats. Brusati explained he appreciated me as a community member for supporting his business. As I left the store and walked back to my car, remembering that not too long ago I was wearing a little league jersey that read “T & B Sports” across my shoulder blades, I realized just how much the community appreciates him back.