By Mike Fruitman
I usually get to share the success of a recent hobby release on here and share some exciting pictures and links to eBay auctions via What’s Hot in the Shop, but this week, I would prefer to use this space for a greater purpose.
Just over a week ago, Hurricane Sandy laid waste to much of New Jersey, New York and other surrounding areas. Living in Colorado, I am used to getting my fair share of nasty weather, but a massive blizzard usually means three days at home with my wife and kids with a sore back from shoveling, not the destruction of nearby Denver or Aurora, where my house and store are both located.
Thanks to Facebook and some calls, I was able to learn that no family members or none of my hobby brothers or sisters had passed, but seeing the loss of entire towns and cities has me concerned about the ability of some East Coast hobby stores to stay open. I will readily admit that owning a card store is often a challenge with so many factors being beyond our control.
Many shops in the East Coast need your help and I would encourage you all to consider calling a non-local card store and seeing if you can help. Finding a store is incredibly easy. Simply go to www.Topps.com, scroll to the bottom and click “find a retailer”, on the next page enter 10175 for the zip code, click 50 miles for the search radius and you will find 50+ stores that have all been affected in some manner by Sandy.
Heck, I’ll even make it easier on you http://topps.com/retailers?distance%5Bpostal_code%5D=10175&distance%5Bsearch_distance%5D=50&distance%5Bsearch_units%5D=mile
I have been in touch with many of my friends who own card stores in the New Jersey and New York area and have heard some horrible stories of decimation and inspiring stories of survival. I would like to thank the following shop owners who shared some of their experiences. More importantly, I would ask that you consider reaching out to them or others in their area just to help them just cover their bills.
Mark and Donna Rubin who own American Legends in Scarsdale, NY 10583 (914) 725-2225 shared these thoughts:
“People’s priorities are going to change after an experience like this. If you are going to wait on a four hour gas line, you are going to be very judicious on where you travel. You’ll drive to work and to buy food but are you going out of your way to buy something that isn’t vital to your survival? I don’t think so.
“Certainly if the manufacturers could incentivize people to make the trip to a local shop, it would be a big help.
“We were lucky. We only closed one day and didn’t lose power although our internet and phones were out for four days. Still, we can’t contact most of our customers because they don’t have power, phone or internet. Our 20th anniversary is Sunday, November 11th. We had some promotions for the upcoming anniversary which we have postponed because there is no way to make people aware of them and quite frankly right now they have other priorities.”
Lisa Stellato owns Never Enough Cards in Port Jefferson Station, NY (631) 331-3629 had this to say about the last week:
“We consider ourselves very fortunate. (We) only lost power at home and in our retail store while others lost everything including loved ones. A great deal of our area is still out of power. Gas lines are insane as we have spent over 6 hours waiting 2 times to be turned away. People are siphoning gas out of vehicles. We only had enough gas left in the tank to make one more trip to our store. We were fortunate to follow a gas truck to a station, get in line and wait 3 hours for gas. I actually brought filled gas cans back from Massachusetts this weekend, probably not the smartest thing I have done, but a necessary one.
There is so much devastation and to see it so close to home is truly indescribable. We all have seen photos from many different disasters but to witness it in person in almost impossible to put into words. To see before and after pictures of places you have been is just surreal. Our retail store regained power and is open, did a total of $186 this week and understand that this will be an uphill climb as people try to get back to some kind of normalcy, but we expect a slow go of it as there are so many obstacles in the way.
We remain positive and know that monies will be spent on repairs to homes, cars, re-stocking food and all other more important/necessary items before sports cards or collectibles. People are not driving unless necessary to conserve gas. Our retail store will be open 6 days/week for anyone who needs a break, wants to watch a game, talk sports, buy a pack or comic or most importantly talk Lego. We remain committed to all our customers in store and online as we have sent out every one of our online orders daily using lanterns and flashlights, including over 200 of them on Friday. We are the lucky ones, still able to go to work and do what we love…our hearts go out to each and every one of our fellow New Yorkers as well as all others affected by Hurricane Sandy.”
Steve Nemeckay owns Amazing Heroes in Union, NJ and you can check him out at www.amazingheroes.com (which is also his ebay seller name) or please call him at (908) 687-4338. I wish I could be as optimistic as he is.
“My first thought during the storm was for family. We were all very lucky as no one was hurt & and all our homes were for the most part undamaged. Only my parents had power & heat so we “packed up the truck” and headed for the warmth of their home. After everyone in the family was accounted for, my thoughts turned to my store. When my father could safely find a way across town he told me that he could see no damage but that the whole area was without power.
Tuesday I got to the store early to see if there was anything I could get done. I worked all day with just the light coming in from the front windows. Over the next few days I was there in the semi light trying to stay productive doing jobs that get ignored when were open because they take a good amount of time and “busy” work. People would come by and poke there head in to check on us and commiserate. Most of my customers also had no power or heat in their homes.
Thursday night, the store’s power came back and I opened from 6 to 10:30, only one person had any money to spend. Our stores do not sell milk or bread. We count on expendable income to survive. I’m faced with a week of no customers and the items that do sell for us can’t get to us. When we order it’s for items a month or two away. My distributors don’t want to hear about my problems. They have product that I ordered in the warmth of the summer sitting in their warehouse waiting for me to get it. Being a hybrid store (we carry sports cards, comics & gaming), I have multiple distributors sending product this week without having made anything last week to pay for it. They order the same way we do, so I understand that their backs are to the wall as well. That’s just part of the problem; the customers that shop in my store have been hit as hard if not harder by the storm. Many of them did not work last week and that means this month’s budget has no room in it for cards, comics or games.
I will be getting product that even if they wanted to come in and buy it, they will not be able to because they have their bills to pay instead. My plan for the month will be posting more items on eBay so I can be selling outside my area to people not affected by this storm. My hope is to make up the shortfall from 4 days of being closed and the shortage I will feel up to and after Christmas. As you know, I consider myself a “glass half full” kind of guy. I will be keeping my chin up and working twice as hard to keep the products flowing so I can stay on top of my bills. I’m sure I’ll be making some hard decisions as to what will be late in the coming months but I’m going to make it through.”
Thanks for giving this a read and again, I would ask you to please consider picking up the phone to place an order with these three stores or any of the man others you can easily find using the link above. Sports card stores are not just a place to buy a box; they are part of the fabric of a community. To see stores putting on such brave faces during tough times like this makes me want to ensure that they are still open when their areas come back to full strength.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, Colo. You can read his column here every week, focusing on what products are selling best in hobby shops. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.