There are a lot of shop owners out there with interesting stories to tell. I have been trading email with Rob Hunegs of Minnesota who recently opened up a store as a retirement venture. Twin Cities Sports Cards is located in the suburb of Golden Valley.
He gladly consented to answer some questions and we’re always happy to have a Q&A with store owners and show dealers with an interesting story or two inside Rich’s Ramblings.
When did you start collecting, Rob?
RH: When I was approximately eight years old I was introduced to baseball cards by the kids in neighborhood. Minnesota did not have its own major league baseball team at that time and so I became a fan of the Minneapolis Millers, a AAA team. I also followed the St. Paul Saints, another AAA team. Like most kids at that time I spent my nickel for a pack of baseball cards at the local drugstore.
Life intervened and college and early married life put the hobby on hold for me. It was when my son became old enough to get interested in the hobby, that I brought up my old collection to show it to him and things just took off from there for me and how I remembered how much I loved working with the cards. As my wife will tell you, once I get a passion about something I have a tendency to go full speed ahead. Ultimately, I built my collection to include complete sets from 1948 through 1955 Bowman, and complete sets from 1952 Topps through 1987 Topps. My 1952 set included all the high numbers.
Now that’s a nice collection indeed and to finish any 1952 Topps set in any condition is an accomplishment. And by the way, among those to have played for the Minneapolis Millers are three great HOF outfielders: Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Carl Yastrzemski. Wouldn’t it be great to say you saw players like these before they became famous?).
RH: I had been participating in our local Twin Cities Sports Card Club shows for number of years, I would go primarily to get reconnected with the hobby and I met a lot of great people there. Throughout that time I always felt that there needed to be a vintage brick and mortar card shop in Minneapolis and our area was missing that type of store.
My wife and I used to drive around and whenever we saw a for rent sign in a strip mall we would stop and look in the windows and I would imagine what it would be like to have a baseball card shop there. Finally after being retired for about a year I found the right location and best of all it was only five minutes from our home.
What have been the biggest challenges and surprises since you opened up your doors?
RH: I’ve been pretty good with email for a number of years. But the thing that was the most difficult for me was working with the social media and technology aspects that are required to run the business today. Finding somebody who could convey my ideas that I wanted to express on the web site was really hard. Setting up a Facebook page didn’t come naturally to me either. I had to rely on friends and family who were much more knowledgeable about all of this then I am. In my previous business, I really didn’t have a need to use social media and the various firms I represented ran their own web sites independently.
Has anything surprised you about this business?
RH: When my partner and I open the store, we anticipated that supplies for the hobby would be a large part of our sales. We worked with vendors to get our hobby supply inventory very deep as we wanted to have different supplies that people might not be able to find anywhere else. I think the thing that surprised us the most is how strong our vintage card and memorabilia sales have been and that although it has been good, supplies haven’t been as big of a seller that we thought they were going to be.
The other item that surprises me is this popular card game called Magic and the number of people who came in and asked if we sold Magic cards. Luckily for us we have a comic shop about 2 miles from our store and we actually do a very good job referring business back-and-forth to each other.
What is the nicest item or collection you have seen since you opened?
RH: I have truly been surprised by the number of nice buys that have walked into the store. I was hoping that would be the case but you’re never really sure until it starts happening and I’ve had really good luck in that regard. A very nice gentleman came in with a set of golf clubs that were approximately 60 years old. Wooden handles you know, an interesting piece but not something I really wanted to purchase, but I’m in business and he was nice enough to bring these in and offer them to me for sale and so I purchased them. Those golf clubs are still sitting in my store, but within 30 days of my purchase of those golf clubs this the same gentleman started bringing in his baseball card collection which included which included complete sets of 1959 Topps,1959 FleerTed Williams, 1964 Topps, 1964 Stand Ups, 1964 Topps Coins and much more…not a bad buy starting out with a set of golf clubs I really didn’t even want to purchase.
I have also purchased complete sets of 1948 Bowman 1956 Topps, 1954 Topps, 1958 1960 1963 1968 and ‘69 sets. I have also purchased partial sets of 1933 Goudeys and 1952 Topps, to name a few.
What are some of the promotions you have done to get people into your store?
RH: At different shows that I set up at I handed out coupons good for $5 off any $25 or more purchase in the store. Within the store I also handed out the same coupon to people who had made purchases to entice them to return.
I also partnered with my bank and set up a display with in the bank to promote our card store.
Tell me about your family. Have they helped you?
RH: All of my family has been so supportive and helpful to me in getting this business off the ground. My wife, my two children and my three grandchildren. Families been a huge help, my son help me find the website designer because I had no idea how to go about that. Everyone has offered good advice and thoughts around the website and the Facebook page, As well as the layout and merchandising of the items in the store.
Is there anyone else involved in the business?
RH: I do have a partner in this venture. I developed a friendship over the years with another vendor from those club shows that I went to. He focuses on selling memorabilia where as I specialize in vintage cards. As I talked about this bricks and mortar store over the years, he thought it sounded like a good idea so when the time came we put our two inventories together and have a incredibly well-rounded store to offer buyers. We have significant vintage sports cards and also interesting memorabilia to offer for sale, including a huge collection of bobble heads, programs, tickets, game used bats and autographed baseballs.
Thanks to Rob for sharing his story with us. If you’re a collector, especially one who appreciates the hobby as a whole, it sounds like a great place to visit and collectors are lucky to have Rob’s store in the Twin Cities. If you’re in the area, his hours are:
Monday – Wednesday 12-6