As March gives way to April, baseball season (delayed just a week, thankfully) will soon be upon us. That month also represents a milestone for my card store, Cullman Sportscards & Fun Shop, as April 6 will mark one year that I’ve been in operation.

Card store Pokemon case
One item I carry more than I expected to when I opened my card store: Pokemon cards. (Image: Johnny Kampis)

On that day in 2021, I fulfilled a dream from my teenage years of one day running my own card store. As one might surmise, operating a small business has come with its ups and downs. Here’s a look back at my first year:

Being all things to all people isn’t always so profitable

I certainly wasn’t afraid to open my wallet when it came to stocking the store in the first year, probably to my detriment. Armed with a business loan, I bought up a lot of sealed product and quite a few local collections. I’ve done well on the collections I bought, but probably went overboard on buying sealed boxes. That’s partially in an attempt to build volume with a distributor in hopes of receiving product at lower factory allocated cost, which I detailed in a previous column.

I’ve also tried to have a little bit of something for anyone who might walk in the door, but after a year, I’ve learned the local clientele and what they’re likely to buy or not. That should help me be more profitable in my second year by buying less sealed product that I later have to dump off online for a loss to clear out my excess stock.

Creating a better balance of selling live and online

In the first few months I was open, I focused primarily on selling merchandise only in-store, which worked well in the early going when business boomed thanks to the newness factor. Sales leveled off in the ensuing months, and I bought some massive collections – which now fill a sizable storage unit. I’ve since done a better job of using online platforms to move merchandise, from eBay to Facebook to up-and-comer Whatnot. These days, I do about half of my business live and half of it online.

Making real friendships

One thing the woman who ran Baseball Cards & Comics, the most successful card store in Cullman during the heyday of the 1990s, told me before I opened was that she hoped I made the types of lifelong friendships she did when she had her store. And I have. Regulars visit weekly – or multiple times a week – and we enjoy chatting about cards and other hot topics of the day. I’ve invited some to hang out with my other friends during guys’ nights. I suspect I will call many of them friends years down the road, whether I still have my card store or not.