Hobby Musings: Catching up with Mike Fruitman of Mike’s Stadium Sportscards – Over the years, I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with some truly exceptional card store owners. Though we’ve never formally met in person, one of those store owners is Mike Fruitman of Mike’s Stadium Sportscards. Whether it’s to conduct some business or just have a good chat about the hobby, Mike’s knowledge and experience in the hobby never ceases to amaze me. His store, well known in the hobby community, has long been a fixture in Colorado. He took some time out to talk about the history of his store and the current state of the hobby. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: Mike, why did you decide to start a card shop in the first place?
MF: I collected since I was a kid and while I took some time away from the hobby in high school and college, the hobby was seemingly always in my blood. My first pack experience was with 1978 Topps MLB and I scored a Pete Rose card along with a piece of gum. Growing up in Miami, pre-Marlins, the Reds were my NL team and that one pack sampling at a kids TV show in Miami has gotten Topps a very good ROI from when I got into collecting back then to the past 26 years of card store ownership. It’s cool seeing their Topps Of The Class program and getting to go full circle where I now get to offer up to kids their first packs. Hopefully one of these youngsters will want to buy my card store in say 30-40 years 🙂
KS: Since the time you’ve opened to now, what do you think have been the biggest changes in the sports card world?
MF: Clearly the buying, previewing, bragging and so many other opportunities afforded by the internet have been the biggest changes. Beyond that, being able to take pride in your collection and share it on Instagram or other social media outlets has taken some of the privacy of collecting away and allowed super collectors to improve their collections or to simply brag about a recent pull. That has been an added benefit.
There was a time when shop owners thought that the internet was going to take us out and while there are things I would like to see done differently online, the ability to stay in touch with my collectors, to share information and to help spread the word about the fun on collecting far outweighs the challenges that shops face from the internet.
KS: What would you say are the biggest challenges in operating a store in today’s hobby climate?
MF: The biggest challenge in recent times is being able to adequately stock my store and seeing the challenges that other shop owners are experiencing trying to do the same. Fortunately, I am direct with all of the manufacturers and have great relationships with multiple distributors so I’m usually able to get enough. However, for shops that do not have the same track record, it is frustrating seeing them get boxes instead of cases for their allocations. I haven’t forgotten when I first opened my shop and I didn’t even have the access to buying direct or distributors. I try to help shops get what they need directly or indirectly by putting together a shop owner Facebook page. There are so many incredibly generous shop owners out there and it is great to see product help go to shops that are looking for it.
KS: Conversely, what do you enjoy most about having your store?
MF: I was just telling someone today that I GET TO go to work and that it is a privilege to be a fun place that people really look forward to visiting. I think of the Dunkin’ Donuts guy who gets out of bed and has “gotta make the donuts” and am fortunate to be his polar opposite. Between being an unlicensed psychiatrist for collectors who are having tough days or being the reward trip to kids after school or on a weekend, I am lucky that people use my store as an escape from the real world and are willing to put up with my quirky sense of humor, biting wit and unique shop style.
Hobby Musings: Catching up with Mike Fruitman of Mike’s Stadium Sportscards
KS: What do you think has been the biggest key to keeping your store viable and successful after all these years?
MF: A shop is an individual surrounded by cards. If I am not cool, my shop has no chance at being cool. Everything I sell can be bought online and I like to think that I offer much more than immediacy and convenience. Every week I am offering my collectors the chance to win prizes and each month, we try to give away a pack from each new release. All the items I get from attending industry events are given away to my collectors and THEY make my store Colorado’s Best Card Shop, not myself. Two and a half years ago we actually were the first store (that I know of) to host card shows in their own shops and it is fun each month (after I’m done putting everything away all week) hosting my friends at their tables as well as those who visit those days. Collecting in or visiting Colorado? You can always check out when our next show is on our social media outlets. We typically shoot for the second Saturday of each month and hit it with few exceptions.
KS: Looking at your store now, what has been selling the best for you in Colorado?
MF: Wax. Wax. Wax! Singles and more wax. I pride myself on my shop’s selection and make sure we carry every new release, but we feature many products from previous years and it is always cool when a player like Giannis [Antetokounmpo] goes big and I have 13/14 box options for my collectors to plunder. I’d love to tell you I was smart enough to bury some 2011 Topps Update along the line, but sadly those moved out a few years ago. I scour distributor lists and while I could get better at updating my buys on Dealernet, we are always running buys on previous year products including those that did not perform initially since I like offering boxes at all different price points. Fear not, we also move a healthy amount of Avalanche, Broncos, Nuggets and Rockies singles, so if you’re ever interested in trading, feel free to hit me up at email@example.com.
KS: In all the years you’ve been open, what do you think has been the coolest thing you’ve had for sale in your store?
MF: Wow, tough one there. I bought it for promotional purposes, but yes I had one of the Broncos Super Fan barrels on site. The Barrel Man was the most visible fan in the stadium wearing a barrel, gloves and boots for decades. I bought the barrel to let people enjoy it and take photos with it and didn’t plan on selling it until (Like in The Godfather) I got an offer I could not refuse. I miss it and still get collectors who ask if they can don it for their Facebook photos. Oh well, perhaps it will walk in again one day.
KS: You’ve been through a lots of ups and downs in your career. The hobby has been going through some very notable controversies over the last few weeks. As a store owner, what have you been making of them?
MF: Well, a previous answer was the internet and thanks to the internet, the information share to myself and collectors on some recent interesting happenings has had me giving my opinions to my collectors. We came off a run of Brady, Trout and many vintage singles selling for considerable amounts and prefer to focus on the positive than the negative. While I do not ignore it, accentuating the positive tends to go a bit further.
I would hope that those involved take a hard look at their business practices and how things allegedly happened so that they aren’t repeated. Beyond that, I would imagine collectors will need some recovery time and might switch where they do their business if they feel strongly enough.
KS: The crazy thing about these controversies is that they’re coming in the middle of a seemingly wildly successful run in the sports card world. Looking back on the last few years, where do you think they rank among your time in operating a store?
MF: I can pretty much point to a run that started after the 2013 NFL season as a constant ramp up in the hobby. The interest in rookies in all of the sports since that time has been unparalleled short of specific moments like Shaqmania, LeBronmania, Crosbymania and other instances. I’m looking ahead to an NFL rookie class that has me much more confident than I was back in January with the NBA and NHL rookie classes generating more hype than I can remember with the other just mentioned “manias“.
With the addition of breakers, the visibility of the hobby might never have been stronger. I have been telling everyone I can that this is the best time I have seen in my 26+ years of card ownership and genuinely believe it. I joke with my wife that I’m worth kidnapping and her smile when I do either suggests that they can have me, or is happy for my success and the same for so many other card store owners.
KS: If there was one thing you think the hobby could use or do to help ensure its long term survival going forward, what would it be?
MF: With things going as well as they are and so many younger collectors either finding the hobby on their own or through their parents who collected, I would LOVE to see a national level Kids Club that shops could elect to participate in.
Each of the manufacturers have incredible programs available to shop owners, but I think it is time to take that to the next level. My shop has recently involved the previously mentioned Topps Of The Class program as a way to get kids to sign up and beginning in July, they can stop in each month for a free item. I have plenty of sample packs and other items to give away to get things going and would love to see a manufacturer or manufacturers work together with a distributor to provide an easy way to implement and well-hype Kids Club at each and every store.
I think back to the power that pack of 1978 Topps MLB had in my life and while I probably would have made a marginal accountant or decent doctor, I take pride in being an awesome card shop owner. Now I have to see what I can do to ensure the next generation of card collectors catch the bug and have it be part of their lives as well.
KS: I’ll get you out of here on this. You consistently have athlete signings and other special events going on at your store. What do you have coming up in the near future?
MF: Well, aside from our weekly and monthly drawings and card shows, I have former Denver Bronco and Super Bowl Champion Aqib Talib visiting the store on June 29th, JSA will be on site for our July Card Show At The Card Shop on Saturday, July 13th and I’m hoping to announce another autograph guest soon. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get onto our email list. Please also check out Mike’s Stadium Sportscards on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so you can be part of all the fun as you Make It To Mike’s!
For more from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
Hobby Musings: Catching up with Mike Fruitman of Mike’s Stadium Sportscards
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