July 7, 1928 – Nov. 13, 2018
James J. Laux of East Amherst was fitted to the sporting goods business like a hand in glove.
Laux was practically born into sporting goods, before he spent a lifetime guiding the expansion of the family business into a local retail chain. He nurtured and stayed with it until failing health forced him into retirement 18 months ago.
The former president of Laux Sporting Goods stores died Tuesday in the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care on Como Park Boulevard in Cheektowaga. He was 90.
The family business created by his father, Alphonse F. Laux, got its start as a humble ice cream parlor on Broadway in 1921, seven years before James Laux was born in Buffalo, according to his son, David A. Laux.
"My grandfather was involved with baseball and loved baseball, so he started to put some gloves up on the wall in the ice cream shop, with some bats and some balls, while he was selling ice cream. He just wanted to be in sporting goods, so he moved across the street to 441 Broadway," said David Laux.
The business became Laux Sporting Goods, a supplier of sports equipment and uniforms to professional, recreational, high school and little league sporting teams.
"Back in the day, they had uni leagues and Triple A, and baseball was much bigger above the high school or college level in Buffalo," said David Laux.
James Laux was a stand-out basketball player at Canisius High School, from which he graduated in 1946.
That year, James Laux attended Canisius College on a basketball scholarship. He perhaps had plans to become a lawyer, but it was not to be, said James Laux's daughter, Kathleen Molnar.
"He was studying to be a lawyer but the family business pulled him out of school early. He went to Canisius for two years, and then his father, who started the business – Al Laux – wanted him to come into the business, so that's what he did," Molnar said.
When Alphonse Laux died in 1959, James Laux took over the family business as president, and his late brother, Richard, became vice president.
In 1962, under their leadership, Laux Sporting Goods was launched from being a sporting goods supplier into full-fledged retail stores, becoming one of the first stores to move into Boulevard Mall on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst.
Soon after, the family business expanded to open stores at the Eastern Hills Mall on Transit Road in Clarence and the Seneca Mall in West Seneca. Laux Sporting Goods was an original tenant in the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga. The Laux family also opened a store at the McKinley Mall in Blasdell as well as a store in Lockport.
"At one time we had six retail stores. His friends and people in the business community that were close called him the king of the sporting goods," said David Laux.
"He loved golf. He loved to play gin. He worked hard. He played hard. He was dedicated to his family, his friends, his church and his employees. That was his world," David Laux added.
David Laux said the two words that best described his father are dedication and passion.
"You had to be there at every holiday. The family came first. He loved it when everybody was there," said David Laux.
"He was dedicated to his business. Seven days a week, he would be there," David Laux added.
In 1979, after a fire at its original Broadway store, the store's headquarters was moved to its current location at 25 Pineview Drive, off North French Road in Amherst.
The 441 Broadway location was closed in 2002.
James Laux remained active in the family business – even after handing over the reins of the business to his son, David.
"He would go in on Saturday and Sunday. He never had a computer, though," said David Laux. "Everything had to be hand-written."
James Laux was a member at the Transit Valley Country Club and served as its president in 1978. He continued to serve on its board of directors for many years.
He was a member of the Buffalo Executive Association. He belonged to the Buffalo Gyro Club and was governor of Gyro District No. 3.
He enjoyed dancing and was a member of the Amherst Dance Club, of which he was a past president.
James Laux enjoyed golfing and boating. He was a member of the Buffalo Launch Club for 39 years.
He married the former Angeline Plucinik on May 30, 1951.
In addition to his wife of 67 years, his son, David A., and daughter Kathleen M. Molnar, survivors include two other daughters, Carol T. Infanti and JoAnne O'Hara; a sister, Mary Stahl, seven granddaughters and five great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 250 St. Gregory Court, Amherst.