It took me several days to even start this column. Why? Because after I opened Cullman Sportscards & Fun Shop last week I became so overwhelmed by customers that I barely had time to breathe, much less write.

Cullman Sportscards
When I opened Cullman Sportscards & Fun Shop to the public on April 6 I had it stocked with plenty of vintage wax, a mix of new sealed product, and singles of plenty of Alabama, Auburn, and Braves players. (Image: Johnny Kampis)

The response shows the pent-up demand for a collectibles shop in my hometown of Cullman, Alabama, as the hot sportscard market continues its torrid pace.

Pipeline for New Product

When I last wrote about my efforts, I had just dealt with a broken water pipe – the plumbing since fixed, and my water bill adjusted downward by the local utility – and described my efforts to obtain distributor accounts. I’ll need such an account to potentially gain access to new sealed products at close to factory cost, but I’ll have to spend a lot of money first before receiving my first allocation.

In the meantime, and thanks to the sage advice from posters on a sportscard forum, I learned of Dealernet, a business-to-business website where dealers and breakers sell to others. As I bide my time waiting on approval for distributor accounts, I’ve been able to purchase new product at an average of about 25% off of the eBay cost, leaving me just enough meat on the bone to make a profit and provide new product for customers in my store.

Customers Arrive Early

And those customers have proven to be plentiful. Two gentlemen showed up at my front door about a half-hour before I intended to open the doors for the first time on April 6, so I let them in. Then another customer showed up. Then another. After opening a half-hour early, my store wasn’t empty for the next 150 minutes. My wife later brought me a pizza for lunch. I took a bite and then a customer showed up. An hour later, after having served several customers, I finally got to reheat the pizza and eat it. It was a good problem to have.

As I expected, players of local interest caught the attention of many shoppers. I may have a hard time keeping cards of players like Tua Tagovailoa and Bo Jackson in stock. The interest in Ronald Acuna Jr., already high because he plays for the Atlanta Braves, should only rise in coming weeks with his scorching start to the season.

Even though the costs of new sealed boxes of cards have risen to exorbitant levels, especially basketball cards, I sold through a box of NBA Hoops, the lowest tiered basketball product, at $20 per pack, as well as a sealed box for $390. Although I had concerns about trying to obtain a box of Prizm basketball, figuring the local market likely wouldn’t want a $2,000 product, several customers asked me if I had any.

The Challenge of Keeping ’em Coming Back

Certainly, in the months ahead, my challenge will be to determine which of these products customers want, and which ones they can afford. And I’ll have to keep refreshing and restocking the store, so it doesn’t appear stale. I can recall, as a teenage card collector in the 90s, frequenting the local store that kept a good amount of new product, while rarely darkening the doors of the ones that seemed the same every time I walked inside.

Early indications for my own store are good: at least a dozen people visited twice in my first week, while two customers shopped three times. One of those remarked that he told his wife, “This is going to be my Cheers.”

Call me Sam.