Card Shop Spotlight: Bleecker Trading

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

As a kid, I can vividly remember walking into a card shop on Saturday afternoons after Little League games.  At 11 years old, I couldn’t quite articulate the fun I had sifting through old Topps Chrome football cards, nor could I explain why I thought tiny pictures of Derrick Rose and Tim Tebow were cool.  But I did, and I still have that same feeling when I walk into a shop to this day.

In this series, I intend to explore the heartbeat of the hobby: local card shops. The sports card market is valued at over $20 billion, and that number is expected to skyrocket in the next decade. However, this resurgence would not have been possible if it weren’t for shops across the country.  These articles will take a look at them all - from the biggest stores in New York or LA to the Main Street spots in small towns. 

Today’s Card Shop Spotlight takes us to the Big Apple.  New York has long been a focal point in business, fashion, culture, and food.  And now you can add trading cards to that list. Bleecker Trading is the premier destination for hobbyists in NYC.  Since opening its doors in 2020, Bleecker has hosted a variety of hobby-related events.  They take different approaches to owning a modern card shop by focusing on community building and networking.  As a result,  they’ve become a force within the hobby and a must-see space in New York.

The Brick and Mortar

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Wu Tang Hulu Event / Bleecker Trading

Bleecker’s setup consists of three parts: the trading card store, the social club, and the backyard.  The trading card store has room for collectors to mingle with one another, and it’s also a great way to speak with Bleecker’s knowledgeable team.  There is also a social club, an even larger space that is often utilized by trade nights.  Anyone can reserve the club and host large trade night events. It’s a unique way to build relationships in the hobby without having to wait for a large card show or industry event.  Finally, the outdoor backyard provides even more space for trade nights and private events.  You can tell the space has been curated for building connections and bringing collectors together.

Q&A with Owner, Mark Zablow

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Card Talk Pod trade night / Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to jump on a call with Bleecker founder Mark Zablow and discuss the vision behind his shop.  I was curious about his thought process and plan for the future, and he gave some great insight.  Here’s what he had to say:

How long have you been in the hobby?

Zablow: My father took me to a card show randomly when I was seven or eight. It was actually a book fair, but there was a trading card show next door. We ran into my father’s friend, who convinced my father to buy me a set. That was back when you would get a book and assemble the entire base set. When I was ten years old, I moved to Los Angeles. That was Shaq’s rookie year, and Classic Draft Picks was the exclusive product with his image and likeness. It was an interesting year; Upper Deck Baseball had been out for a few years, but basketball was about to get that premium production rise. So, Shaq is like my Michael Jordan.

Could you speak to the concept behind Bleeker Trading and how it differs from traditional card shops?

Zablow:It’s kind of two-fold. We were looking for a place during the pandemic that would appreciate the hobby and form a trading card community. We wanted to really immerse ourselves in it, and we didn’t see any opportunities in New York City. It felt like a responsibility, both as an NYC business owner and a hobbyist, to bring that [place] to life. How we differ stems from approaching this project from a community angle. We were a social club before we were a trading card store. We really focus on our trade nights, our events, and our corporate partnerships just as much as the end consumer as well. Our focus was on how we could give NYC a presence and how we could use that to elevate the hobby. Whether it’s merchandising, events, or networking, we wanted to try it as long as it makes the hobby better.

What can the everyday collector expect when they come to Bleeker for a trade night?

Zablow: We like to call it the “inclusive speakeasy.” When you walk in, it will feel private, like a living room or basement. You order some pizza with your friends, and you’re back to feeling like a 13-year-old collector again. It has that Cheers vibe if anyone reading this is young enough to know what Cheers is. Everyone knows your name, so it’s super friendly. But I think we are most proud of the different kinds of people that come to trade. You have your true hobbyists, you have those that just want to show off their collection, and you have those that work in the industry. So it’s just a real mix of the hobby in a real communal setting.

Bleecker Trading John Starks
CardLadder Trade night with New York Knicks legend John Starks / Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Talk about some of the best traits a hobby shop owner can have. 

Zablow: I gotta put hospitality first. People aren’t always coming into your store to buy something. That goes back to the “community” aspect we were talking about earlier. It’s about treating [the shop] like a community first, even if that costs money. Also, honesty is key. You’ve gotta just try to do right by everyone else first. I know we all want to make money, but there are honest ways to do it.

We’ve seen tremendous growth in this industry over the last two years. How would you like to grow Bleecker Trading in the next two years?

Zablow: I’d like to see our work with corporate partners expand. I truly think that Bleecker has become a vessel within the hobby for corporations and collectors. So I’d like to see us build those bridges and do things that haven’t been done before. Things that elevate the hobby.

Is there anything else you would like collectors to know about Bleecker?

Zablow: We are looking forward to being a global destination in the hobby. As people come to New York from all over the world, we want to welcome all collectors with open arms. Reach out to us on Instagram; let us know you’re coming by. We’ve got our Social Club. We’ve got our trading card store. We’ve got our backyard, and it’s open to all collectors. So we look forward to hosting as many people as possible in our events, whether it’s at Bleecker or other cities in the future.

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