The news from California sporting goods retailer Sport Chalet (NASDAQ:SPCH) continues to be mostly good. The small and fast-growing company today said fiscal Q3 (ended Dec. 31) and nine-month financial results improved dramatically year over year. While the company may not have the footprint of some of its larger competitors, its numbers nevertheless demand attention from sector watchers.

Before we get into the good news, however, it's worth looking closely at some figures that are less attractive: the company's same-store sales. The holiday quarter is the big one for Sport Chalet, yet comps this year managed only a 2.9% improvement. That's better than the 1% the 30-odd store chain managed in the first six months of the year -- and in line with competitors such as Sports Authority (NYSE:TSA) and Big Five (NASDAQ:BGFV) -- but nevertheless shows that expansion still drives much of the company's growth.

That growth really is pretty solid, though. Year-to-date sales at Sport Chalet improved 8.4% to $195 million, and improved gross margins (caused by fewer markdowns) on top of those sales gains offset increased SG&A expense to drive a slight increase in net income. The holiday quarter numbers were better, as revenues improved more than 10% and net income jumped 18%.

The company, which prides itself on service, isn't slowing down. Historically a Southern California retailer, it has moved into Northern California -- where most of its 2004 growth is scheduled to go -- and Nevada. Profitable and with a respectable balance sheet, this superstore retailer continues to carve out a strong niche for itself in a competitive national marketplace that includes the aforementioned companies as well as the likes of Dick's (NYSE:DKS) and even discount retailers such as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT).

The same-store sales numbers indicate that business across the sector isn't exactly booming, but Sport Chalet is putting up a good fight for a little guy. Investors have noticed, and the shares have spiked in recent months.

If you've ever headed out west and hit a Sport Chalet, share your experience on our Sport Chalet discussion board.

Dave Marino-Nachison can be reached via email.