If you’re a long-time Sports Collectors Daily fan, you’ve probably read our ‘Eyesore to Card Store’ series about the guys in Marion, IL who took a century-old downtown building and turned into a phenomenally nice, small-town card shop. I finally made good on my promise to make the drive from world headquarters and see the place in person last Saturday. The store is as impressive as it looks in the pictures we’ve shown you. Hardwood floors, plenty of space, a spot to sit and very well stocked with new and old sports cards, memorabilia and fan gear. If there’s a church of baseball cards, this is it.
Fox Sports Cards is now two years old and we promise a new update on how they’re doing very soon. In light of the number of shops that continue to close, it’s important to keep the business side of the hobby in focus. I can tell you that these guys are working extremely hard and most importantly, doing things the right way to have a chance to succeed—even in small town America. They’ve followed the blueprint for modern marketing; reaching out to Little League teams, Cub Scout groups, local schools and every other relevant civic group to get customers in the store. The hope, of course, is that they come back. Many do –and so do their dads, who rediscover the hobby they left 20 or 30 years ago.
There are obstacles. They get undercut on pricing by fake storefronts in the distribution chain. Disposable income is down. The card companies don’t always deliver product that matches the hype. But the store has become a destination—not just for the few hundred collectors in the immediate area. Families will drive an hour or hour and a half to come to their “trade nights” as will collectors who want a new product the day it comes out. They tape YouTube videos of their own box breaks which has spawned additional business from collectors across the country who like watching them to get an idea of what the products offer and decide they would just as soon support a hard-working card shop run by collectors. They put out a regular newsletter and update their website. They’re working hard to keep the concept of the card shop alive—and ensuring the hobby has a future. Kids do still get excited about cards. But you have to make it fun for them and treat them right by giving stuff away. You have to keep the place clean, organized and open as long as possible each day.
It’s all tremendously hard work for a shop owner who can’t yet call it his full-time job. But Dan Fox and his staff are still having fun and are excited about how far they’ve come in two years. You hope other shops are having similar success. And you really hope the sports leagues, card companies, distributors and other businesses appreciate it as much as their customers.