Hobby Musings: R&D Sports Cards looking to make their mark on the hobby – Opening a trading card shop can be a daunting task under normal circumstances. Doing so while a pandemic is on presents a monumental challenge. For R&D Sports Cards co-owners Bryce Rollins and Shannon Dunn though, it was a challenge they were only too happy to undertake. Operating in Branford, Connecticut, they made the decision to open their doors earlier this summer.
I had the chance to catch up with the Bryce and Shannon to see how things have been going for their business so far.
KS: Bryce, Shannon, I have to start with this. What made you decide to open a brick and mortar trading card store during the coronavirus pandemic?
BR: Oddly enough the pandemic has helped us in our particular situation. Both of us have other careers and have been discussing opening a store for a while, but due to the logistics of both commuting far to work, it was hard for us to justify owning and opening a store where we would have no presence. Due to the pandemic, the rents were very cheap and we both were able to work from home, which allowed us more time at the store. Shannon runs the day-to-day operations, and I handle most of the purchasing and vendor relations. We have found a great groove that has allowed us to have the best of both worlds.
KS: You’ve been open a little over a month now. So far, how have things been going?
BR: As with any business, it is a slow climb, but we are excited with the way things are going. So far, our sale of singles is keeping us afloat. We see a high demand for basketball obviously, but due to our location in CT, we also have a high demand for Yankees, New York Giants and Red Sox cards of all price points.
We are slowly learning what will and will not sell in store. As for boxes, we are purchasing every product we can get our hands on, and eventually we will get into a groove of what people are looking for and what just won’t sell to our customers. We find pack sales are in higher demand than we thought, but that might speak more to the price of hobby boxes right now than the desire for just packs. All in all, we have seen good numbers that are encouraging to our long term prospects.
KS: How are you striving to set yourselves apart from other trading card stores?
SD: We wanted to cater to all types of collectors, not just the people who spend big money buying $300- $500 boxes looking for the big hit. We want to keep kids involved, which is tough to do because boxes & packs are so expensive. So we created 50 cent bins of rookies, commons and Refractors to let kids find their favorite players no matter what sport. Both of us have young children and we want them to enjoy collecting also. We also have memorabilia for the autograph seekers and non-sport cards, for example Pokemon. I think for a small establishment, we did a great job having a huge variety of inventory for all.
KS: What have your customers been requesting since you opened the store?
SD: Basketball is so hot as Bryce previously stated. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive. Also, we have a pretty good showcase full of higher end rookies that we have to replenish rapidly. We are always looking for the new stars for people to purchase such as Zion Williamson, Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Robert, Joe Burrow, Tua, etc.
KS: What challenges have you encountered with the store so far?
SD: Being able to purchase a big amount of inventory at once. We are on a tight budget so we can’t just go get multiple cases of product at a time. Obviously the pandemic has limited store traffic, but we have a pretty good following that has kept us going. We have come a long way in three months, but I think that’s our biggest struggle.
BR: Everything we buy is on the secondary market. If it wasn’t for singles and the small amount of breaks we do online, we would already be out of business. I have faith that when the market cools down, then there will be allocations for us in the future, so hopefully we can just stick with it until then.
KS: Is there anything you’ve been pleasantly surprised by since opening?
BR: The one thing that is really cool that I am seeing now is the amount of collectors in our age group (30-45) that are now sharing the hobby with their kids. We see a lot of guys who either never left the hobby and are introducing it to their kids, or kids were interested and it got the parents back involved in the hobby. There are always people coming into the store who collected in the junk wax era who tell me the story of randomly buying a pack or blaster in Walmart, seeing the newer cards and realizing how the hobby has evolved. They were unaware of autograph cards, relic cards, Refractors and serial numbered cards, etc. It is also fun watching people come in looking for some of the junk wax era cards they had as a kid, and it’s fun for them because they can get holy grail cards of their youth for relatively low prices compared to then.
KS: In your opinion, what are the hottest things in the hobby right now?
BR: Without a doubt, it is basketball and anything Mahomes. The basketball boxes, hobby or retail, are commanding so much attention. I have never seen anything like it. Prices are skyrocketing and I can’t keep the singles in my store stocked fast enough. And it is not just Zion and Luka. I have sold a ton of vintage at high prices all the way back to my Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson rookie cards. Giannis rookies are flying off the shelf and anything LeBron is impossible to keep stocked.
Patrick Mahomes is also commanding a lot of attention. I am selling base rookie cards from Playbook and Donruss for over $100 each on eBay where less than a year ago they were $10-15 cards! The hobby is flourishing right now and honestly, it is to see such interest in it. All sports are selling well. Soccer and NASCAR have been in high demand on our website for breaks.
KS: I’ve noticed you seem to have some good success with NASCAR box breaks. Why do you think that has been?
SD: We have!! This is the power of Facebook. Connecticut doesn’t have the biggest volume of NASCAR fans, but our live break group on Facebook has people from across the country and we surveyed the members to see what they like, and NASCAR was pretty high. We have members from Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and a lot of states where NASCAR is huge.
KS: If you could offer any advice to anyone thinking about opening a card store, what would it be?
SD: Cater to all! That has been our biggest success. Like I said before, it’s also our toughest challenge. We both have products we personally are not a fan of, but you need to remember just because you are not a fan, there usually is a market for it, or they wouldn’t have that product. Ex NASCAR!
KS: What do you have coming up in the future for events or other special promotions?
SD: We have JSA coming in November. we will post an exact date on our website. This will be a great event and we already have a huge list of people interested. So if you have an autograph that you got in person and you want it verified, this is what you need. For example, I have a Derek Jeter ball in my personal collection I will have them look at to get a certificate. I have had it since he was a rookie. I got it from a friend who was a reliable source, but this is the only way to prove its his signature.
Hobby Musings: R&D Sports Cards looking to make their mark
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