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Two people standing near Crissy Marsh with Golden Gate Bridge in background.

Jan 6, 2017

Sports Basement’s Shelley Berniker Talks about Building a Healthy Organization in the Presidio

Learn more about this much-loved Presidio retail store and community hub.


Shelley Berniker grew up in a family in the retail business, but she didn’t get bit by the bug herself until 2000. At the time, Sports Basement was a new company in San Francisco, but Shelley appreciated the vibe and quickly became a big fan. She loved it so much that when one of the founders suggested she check out the job board, she did just that. Three months later, she was offered a marketing job, “quit her life” in insurance, and started her new career.

In 2003, the Presidio’s Sports Basement opened. Shelley’s been at the store in one capacity or another for a majority of that time, and she’s now co-General Manager with Tom Phillips (a founding partner) who’s also well-known to Sports Basement regulars. “Tom and I are very good friends,” Shelley shared. “We have different strengths and work well together. To be honest, the Sports Basement staff is just one big family.”

Sports Basement is a well-beloved destination within the Presidio. How did Sports Basement become a part of the Presidio community?

A big part of the store experience is about building community relationships. When we first began talks with the Presidio Trust, I think this perspective really appealed to the Trust – if we didn’t have that, if we were just straight-up retail, I don’t think the Presidio would have said, “Yeah come on in.” The case we made was that we were different, and I think over the years we’ve been able to show that. We’ve evolved into being one of the Trust’s partners in activating the park, getting people out onto the trails and helping visitors enjoy all the Presidio has to offer the community.

There was talk in the past that Sports Basement might be moving out of the Presidio – do you have an update?

We’ve secured a five year extension on our existing lease. We’re happy to stay here for another five years – we know this space works for us.

Why do you think Sports Basement is such a beloved spot in the Presidio?

I think we’ve been able to be a hub for Crissy Field and the park at large. We’re a place where people can rent a bike to ride along the Presidio’s trails or across the Golden Gate Bridge. We’re also a great resource for the community to start exploring the outdoors – we help them start camping, or skiing, or doing anything active. We have events, including a group bike ride on Sundays that’s great for both newbies and experienced cyclers. We have free community classes, like our yoga classes. And on Tuesday nights we have a popular fun run.

There seems to be a leveling once you enter the store. This is a place that makes everyone feel comfortable with their ability – we cheer our customers on and encourage them to get outside and enjoy being active. They can also come in and use the bathroom, buy a water bottle or get a snack – granola or protein bars or smoothie drinks – that can help tide them over for a couple hours in the park. We’ve got everything to help set people out on their adventure.

What do you like about being located in the Presidio?

It’s easy to be inspired every day. You come in and maybe someone is buying shoes and talking about where they’re planning to run in the Presidio. I love that we can cheer at events by simply stepping out our front door! It’s also fun to see familiar faces – both customers and staff – participating in events in the park. I hope that we’ve helped people understand that the park is available for everyone – we’ve shown people how to use it and how to launch from here to enjoy other activities. And I hope we’ve helped them love being active.

This is the time for New Year’s resolutions. Do you have any suggestions for fun, healthy things to do in the Presidio to start your year off right?

On my list this year is to get into Rob Hill Campground. Every year I think, “Yes! I’m going to do it!” And then I don’t. But this is the year! As a San Francisco resident, I’m just so grateful for all of the trails in the park that are available for everyone to enjoy. They’re amazing. And I think if you’ve never taken a walk or ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, this is something you need to put on your list. We see tourists flying in from all around the world because they want to go across the bridge, and I sometimes wonder if people who live here have ever done it. It’s a phenomenal experience and something everyone should do, and the Presidio is where you start your adventure.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

We’re really lucky to be here, and it’s only getting better. I see the work being done with the Presidio Tunnel Tops project and I’m really excited for all the changes coming to the park. People always talk about how expensive San Francisco is, but your entertainment can largely be free if you have a pair of tennis shoes and you get outside and explore the Presidio.

Photo: Shelley Berniker and Co-General Manager Tom Phillips.