When you see a sports card shop is located near a land known as the ‘happiest place on earth’, where 17 million visitors come each year, you might think the owner has it easy. Open the doors, let the tourists flood in, make enough money to hire some good help, sit back and watch the profits roll in.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Maintaining a successful store in Orlando, FL isn’t really all that different than running one in Omaha, but it does have some perks.
Kendall Loyd, owner of central Florida fixture Orlando Sports Cards, sells unopened boxes from the last 20 or 30 years, but also carries more than one million singles from the 1950s to the present.
He told Sports Collectors Daily during a recent visit that he spends about 70 hours a week inside his store on Orange Blossom Trail, not far from Sea World. He’s open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and even on Sunday from 11-4.
“Not being married helps,” he said, only half-joking. “It’s very difficult. The hours are extremely long and you can see what I’ve done here. I sort a lot of cards in order or by player or by team. It’s time consuming. You can’t really pay somebody $10 or $15 now to sort out ten-cent cards so a lot of that you do yourself.”
He sees a well-stocked, well-organized inventory as one of the keys to earning repeat business.
“No matter what you collect, you’re going to find something here,” he said. “That’s what I try to do. From the high-end to the low-end to the older stuff to the brand new stuff, I carry it.”
A graduate of Florida State, Loyd was working as a stockbroker in the late 1980’s, selling cards on the side at local flea markets when it seemed everyone was buying. “I was actually making more money there than I was on my job and eventually I had enough to buy a store. There weren’t many in town at the time, so I borrowed a little money and started the shop with another guy and then he went on and did something else. I kept the store and here it is 23 years later.”
Loyd says there were 10-15 shops in the Orlando area in 1990. Now, there are only a couple, despite the size of the city and its influx of guests who are arriving every day, all year round.
Being located just off a busy thoroughfare that runs between Orlando and Kissimmee has helped the store remain a success. Despite being in one of the world’s major tourist meccas, however, the bulk of Loyd’s business does not come from theme park guests.
“I’d still say it’s probably 75 to 80 percent local and most of them are repeat customers,” he said. “That’s really a great thing. Being here so long, that’s one reason why I don’t move my location. Tourists do come to Orlando. All these theme parks bring people to the area and when they come, they make sure to stop by here. I even get a lot of people from England or Canada or Australia.”
In about six weeks, Loyd expects the annual influx of baseball fans to arrive in the area. Six Major League teams train within about 90 minutes of his shop, which usually brings walk-in traffic for about a six or seven week period.
Among the locals, loyalties are split in central Florida, because most ‘locals’ actually have roots somewhere else, so Loyd has to trade with other dealers who stock cards of players from various teams.
“Florida is very weak with their sports probably because we’re a melting pot. It seems everyone who lives here is from somewhere else. So they already have their teams they follow. The Orlando Magic losing right now doesn’t command a lot of interest because if you’re a Boston Celtic fan, you might root for the Magic on the side but your real team is the Celtics.”
Some sit at tables set up in the middle of the room and look through mountains of boxes stacked neatly against the walls. Others browse through display cases of higher priced vintage and modern singles. The new products still do the best, though, as collector hope for the big pull they can flip on eBay or keep for their collection. A collector himself, Loyd hopes they decide on the latter.
“Opening them for a lot of people is just something to do,” Loyd stated. “They don’t drink. They don’t smoke. They don’t do anything else. Opening boxes is their hobby. Some people don’t say they don’t care about the value of what they get. They want to do well but it’s not in the world if they don’t. A lot of these guys buy these $500 boxes. They very rarely sell anything. They just keep it. I see people just open and even immediately want to sell but I still like to see the true collectors come in. That’s why have our single cards on special at half off. There are some cards that I might have to move up a little bit like a Jordan autograph but I don’t mind giving deals to collectors because I want to see you keep it.”
Loyd understands. He still collects but his specialty helps keep his investment to a minimum.
“Yeah, I collect mostly Florida State stuff and the cards have to show the player in his Florida State uniform,” he explained. “I don’t want a pro card. It’s kind of a unique collection. I also have some stuff that I bought a long time ago that’s more sentimental when it didn’t cost a lot and I just kept it.”
While the store is a mountain of work that’s seemingly never done, it’s still a labor of love for a sports fan and collector who can wear his Seminoles jersey behind the counter instead of a suit and tie behind a desk somewhere. After 23 years, he makes enough money to call the shots and take time off when he really wants to.
“Owning my own business enables me to do some things where maybe by working somewhere else it wouldn’t have been as easy,” said Lloyd. “I’m going to Pasadena to watch the national championship game with Florida State. The downside is that it’s retail. My best days are everybody else’s days off. We’re in a tourist area but they are visiting before Christmas, after Christmas, Thanksgiving, all of those days. So all of those holidays or holiday weeks, I’m here but the business that comes in really helps me.”