Originally from Brooklyn, Gustafson opened MVP Sports Cards and Collectibles this fall.
In the latest of our ongoing series of Q&A sessions with sports card store owners, he discussed his new venture.
SC Daily: Tell us a little about the background of your store. Why did you decide to open it and when?
Ron: I opened MVP Sports Cards on October 1, 2017 to bring access and to promote the hobby that I have loved since childhood in the Treasure and Space coasts of Florida. As a child growing up in Brooklyn, NY in the 80’s I was fortunate to live in a neighborhood that had four or five local hobby shops. My friends and I shared hours of fellowship and laughter in those shops and my hope is to share that experience with the Sebastian community and surrounding areas. The shops of my youth were joyful places of fun and excitement and my wish if for MVP Sports Cards to provide the same environment to the youth of this community.
If I visited your shop, what type of inventory would I find?
My focus inventory wise is centered around variety. Our primary goal is to promote the hobby so we always make sure we have plenty of wax packs on hand for children, novice collectors, and those that are rediscovering the hobby. We can all remember the feeling of anticipation we felt when opening a pack of cards and the excitement of finding your favorite player inside so we keep that goal in the forefront of our minds when stocking.
We also stock a full variety of Baseball, Football and Basketball wax boxes as well as single cards in all sports. As we all know, keeping our favorite cards and collectibles in the best condition possible is so important in our hobby so we always remain fully stocked with supplies.
Sports fans, me included, love our autographed memorabilia! With that in mind, we carry a full variety in all sports of autographed helmets, jerseys, bats and balls all authenticated by the most trustworthy and reliable sources in our industry.
How do you decide which sports card products to stock?
I kept my focus on variety. Not everyone has the same tastes so we wanted to ensure we offered enough options to anyone who visits us that they would find something of interest or discover a new interest. In addition, I believe at its core this hobby is based on community. We engage the guests of our shop and get to know them and what their interests are and make every effort to ensure the products and players they enjoy are on hand.
Tell us about getting the store up and running. What were some of the challenges?
For the most part getting the shop up and running has been a fun experience however like with any new venture challenges will arise. Making connections with vendors initially was a challenge but we were fortunate enough to meet some other shop owners in South Florida who assisted us in streamlining the process. Our only other challenge is getting the word out that we are here and open. We had our formal grand opening celebration this weekend , initiated a trade night , and increased our presence on social media to overcome these challenges.
What types of items seem to be the most popular with collectors there?
Hands down wax boxes that contain limited edition numbered autographed cards and relics like game used memorabilia are by far the most popular. We have added a sitting area with couches and organizer trays so our guests can open their wax boxes and its extremely rewarding to see them pull autographed relic cards here in the shop. I always keep me camera ready and it’s an awesome feeling to snap a picture of that magical moment when the card they were hoping for appears.
Tell us a little about your clientele.
It’s truly incredible to see the diversity of our clientele. Our guests have been men, women and children of all ages and varying backgrounds. Our clientele is what makes us a hobby shop and a community as opposed to a retail outlet. The energy and enthusiasm they bring, the stories and pictures they share are what gives our hobby the enjoyment we all want to share and carry forward to the next generation of collectors.
It’s a challenge to remain profitable and successful. Tell us a little about your business philosophy and some of the things you do that you feel any shop owner can and should do to acquire and retain customers.
Our business philosophy is to provide a community and family experience to the guests of our shop. Our focus is on making our shop an inviting friendly atmosphere where guests that visit feel welcome and comfortable. We have a sitting area where customers can relax and enjoy the game on the big screen TV and also make sure to keep a variety of refreshments and snacks on hand. We want our customers to feel at home.
I genuinely believe that approach is something any shop owner can achieve; it doesn’t take a whole lot to get to know our customer and making those connections and building those relationships is one of the best parts of this business. I genuinely believe by keeping the focus on creating an enjoyable experience and a welcoming atmosphere the natural bi product will be a successful and profitable hobby shop.
What are the card manufacturers doing right to help shops succeed and what needs to be fixed?
Unfortunately I haven’t had a whole lot of interaction with card manufacturers and the interaction on my part took significant effort to obtain. If I were to make a recommendation to manufacturers it would be to be more welcoming to shop owners. I would love for a representative to reach out and introduce themselves or maybe offer some displays or posters for the shop. Wouldn’t take a lot of effort on their part and certainly would go a long way in terms of aiding in a shops success and the long-term perpetuation of our hobby. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely feel the quality of their product is a dramatic improvement from the product of my youth in the mid 80s.
Tell us about a couple of the best (or most interesting) experiences you’ve had since you have opened the store.
Two experiences immediately come to mind. A local man and his wife come in every Saturday with their young son and daughter. They come after the kid’s baseball and soccer games and hang out and watch college football with us and open wax boxes. It’s really cool to see how much they enjoy the experience as a family and to see how quickly the kids take to the hobby and increase their sports card IQ! Seeing the kids take to the hobby the way I did at that age is a great reminder of why I decided to open the shop and leaves me with a great feeling of fulfillment.
Recently I hired a gentleman to assist me in adding some shelving to display our autographed football helmets. We talked on the phone and I never mentioned what kind of store we were. The look on his face when he arrived was priceless! He was a collector as a kid and we spent the majority of the day sharing stories about cards we collected and players we followed growing up. After giving him a tour of the shop, he bought and opened his first wax box in over 30 years! To see someone rediscover the hobby that once meant so much to them was an incredible experience that I hope to see many more times in the future.
What type of plans do you have for the shop going forward?
Moving forward we want to increase our efforts for creating a community driven hobby shop. We plan on adding trade nights, kids days, pack wars, box breaks and a game night with prizes. We are always open to new ideas and suggestions.
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