When businesses across the country started to close in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emporia resident and Dynamic Discs founder, owner and CEO Jeremy Rusco feared how it would affect his business.
As it turned out, for Dynamic Discs, the silver lining of a global pandemic was substantial.
Prior to March 2020, Dynamic Discs — an Emporia-based disc golf manufacturer and retailer with a large online presence — was in a period of expansion, having opened retail stores in Kansas City, Kan., Carrollton, Texas and Springdale, Ark. in addition to its original Emporia store. Additionally, it ran an online store that allowed people all over the continent to buy from Dynamic Discs.
Even still, Rusco said that the first few weeks of the pandemic were highly concerning, as three of his four retail stores — including the flagship in Emporia — had to temporarily close up shop.
“For us, business immediately slowed down, because, as disc golf stores started shutting their doors and people quit spending money because of the unknown and the uncertainties, we actually started to get where things were very slow and I actually was starting to run layoff scenarios or short-term salary cuts for salaried staff,” he said.
Around that time, the Payroll Protection Program was implemented and provided just the right boost to Dynamic Discs — a $286,200 loan to save 32 jobs. Rusco said the PPP assistance helped prevent Dynamic Discs from letting anyone go or reducing anyone’s paycheck. Even the closed retail stores were still able to pay their employees until it was safe to reopen.
And then “disc golf really started to explode,” as Rusco put it.
“People started to understand that they could go outside, play disc golf, be safe, be social, practice social distancing, which is part of disc golf anyway,” he said. “Even though disc golf stores, for the most part across the country, were shut down, the online internet retailers immediately started to see a huge boost and a huge influx on business, including DynamicDiscs.com.”
Rusco said that traffic to the Dynamic Discs website increased dramatically, as did online orders. Before the pandemic, Dynamic Discs would send out an average of 100 orders per day. However, after disc golf’s sudden popularity flare, Rusco said that they started sending out 250 to 500 orders per day.
“It was evident that disc golf was going to grow and grow during the pandemic,” he said. “Still today, we’re seeing that growth. It’s a pretty exciting time for disc golf.”
Rusco said that the public’s sudden interest in disc golf as a safe social activity was largely organic and that Dynamic Discs did not specifically market the sport in that way.
“We actually had some differences of opinion about whether we should promote disc golf,” he said. “There was still so much uncertainty as to what you should do and shouldn’t do and we didn’t want to be telling people they should be going out and playing disc golf and who knows what the next day the CDC is going to say is right or not.”
At the end of June, the Disc Golf Pro Tour restarted its schedule with a tournament at the Emporia Country Club. The event was broadcast on the CBS Sports Network, which was the first time that a disc golf competition had been covered on a major sports television network.
“Dynamic Discs was the tournament host,” Rusco said. “It was actually called the Dynamic Discs Open.”
This nationwide coverage allowed Dynamic Discs’ name and logo to be broadcasted directly into the homes of viewers all across the country.
As to whether Dynamic Discs’ booming business will continue once the pandemic has abated, Rusco is uncertain, but not too concerned.
“I think it’s possible that we will slow down a little bit,” he said. “We had 100% growth from 2019 to 2020. We were planning and expecting and optimistic that we were going to hit 15% growth, and to have 100% growth is just absolutely incredible. I think that it’s going to be somewhere between [15% and 100%]. I’m all over the board. A part of me feels like ... in 2021 we could grow 50%.”
Rusco said that, through the first few weeks of Jan. 2021, Dynamic Discs is continuing to do very well, but thinks it could be possible that that might diminish somewhat when people can get back to their normal routines and activities.
“It’s hard to know what’s going to happen,” he said. “... All the employees that we’ve hired throughout the course of this, I fully expect ... will stay on board and be with us. Hopefully we’ll continue to have to hire more.”