I sat down with my father, Josh Sawyers, and asked him about his experience of owning a card shop. Here is what he had to say:
How long have you been in the hobby?
JS: My first memories are in 1986 when I had a Jose Canseco Donruss Rated Rookie that I use to carry in a bread back with my other cards to trade with friends in the neighborhood. I remember keeping my backpack stock with 50-cent packs to sell in the school lunchroom. Similar to many others, I stayed involved in cards through college, and then slowed down after getting married and having kids. Once my children started to have an interest in collecting, I got back in the swing of things and have been pretty involved ever since.
What has been your biggest joy in owning a shop?
JS: Being able to do it alongside my son. One day in 2018, I asked Jacob if he wanted to open up a shop, and he replied with an emphatic “yes!” Ever since then, I’ve been able to work alongside him and travel the country, which are experiences we wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for sports cards.
We’ve also been able to help the local community and move a business into the downtown district of St. Paul. Having a shop here shows me that entrepreneurship is alive and well in a rural environment.
What has been your biggest frustration?
JS: There’s a tie for that one. We were extremely lucky to get started in 2018 and secure some wax allocation. However, as the demand has grown, it has gotten tougher and tougher to find sealed products. So, a large portion of our week is spent on finding reasonably-priced boxes for our customers. Regardless, I am really excited about Fanatics’ acquisition of Topps, and I’m eager to see how they reinvent the distribution process.
The other part of the job I don’t like is having to tell someone that their collection from the 80s and 90s isn’t going to allow them to retire anytime soon. It’s always disheartening to break that news, and I dread it every time.
What would you say to someone who wants to open up a card shop?
JS: Before you open up, do your homework and plan on starting small. Research local card shops in your area and find out what they are and aren’t doing so you can fill in gaps for collectors in the community. As your business expands, learn more about your customer base and ways you can help their collections and alleviate their needs. It’s impossible to do everything at once. But if one facet of the shop is running smoothly, look to diversify your operations.
How are you looking to grow your business moving forward?
JS: There’s a couple. We’ve seen tremendous growth online in the last 3 years, but I believe one of our best options for revenue growth is building our e-commerce platform. After moving into our new shop, our plan was to create a website for wax and graded cards. When we found Loupe, we really didn’t have the excess inventory to build a substantial website at the time. Now, I’m definitely wanting to keep a nice balance of boxes to break and boxes to sell on the website.
I’d also like to continue to build our grading services for local customers. There aren’t many places in Southwestern Virginia for bulk submissions, so growing ours and educating the buyer about grading is on my checklist for the future.
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