November 25, 2022
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Jim Copeland, San Luis Obispo business leader and French Hospital supporter, dies at 80

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Jim Copeland, a San Luis Obispo entrepreneur, developer and philanthropist who co-founded a national sporting goods retail chain, died April 25 at the age of 80.

Copeland was born in Berkeley and his family moved to the Central Coast when he was a child, according to his Legacy.com obituary. He graduated from San Luis Obispo High School in 1959 and attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before joining the U.S. Army.

Jim Copeland (photo courtesy Dignity Health)

After his service ended in 1965, he moved back to the Central Coast with his wife and young children and went to work at his mother’s store, Copeland’s Fine Shoes. Jim Copeland and his brother Tom Copeland soon opened their first Copeland Sports store. The chain grew to more than 50 stores before they sold it in 2001. The last Copeland stores were acquired by the Sports Authority chain in 2006, which was itself acquired by Dick’s Sporting Goods 10 years later.

Jim and Tom Copeland were major landowners and developers in downtown San Luis Obispo, with properties including the Downtown Center, China Town, Court Street and the Hotel San Luis Obispo. In 2013, the brothers sold a downtown property now known as the San Luis Obispo Collection to the national real estate firm Jamestown, for around $100 million.  

Jim Copeland and his wife Sandy have supported a long list of causes in the San Luis Obispo area, including French Hospital Medical Center, where he was a member of the Community Board, the San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center and the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum. They also donated to Cal Poly and started the Elijah McCoy Scholars program, a scholarship for Black engineering students. Cal Poly will award Copeland an honorary doctorate in business in June, an honor that was planned before his death.

On April 27, San Luis Obispo Mayor Erica Stewart ordered all flags flown on city property to be lowered to half-staff until May 1 in Copeland’s honor.

“Jim Copeland and his younger brother Tom made an indelible mark on San Luis Obispo, revitalizing downtown SLO by preserving historic buildings and creating new developments,” the city’s statement said.