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Michigan family shows that card shops still lifeblood of hobby

The Sports Card Shop in New Buffalo, Mich. is a family affair that has been a shining example for thriving local card shops.

As a former LCS owner myself (1992-97), hobby shops will always hold a special place in my hobby journey and history.

I truly believe they are one of the backbones of the hobby. The ability to go into a local card shop whenever the urge hits you is a great opportunity to pick up a card you've been eyeing for your collection, fill some set needs or rip some packs and boxes.

You soon build a relationship with the owner(s) and employees, maybe even get to know other customers. It builds the hobby community and camaraderie. I always say nothing beats an in-person transaction when the price is right. Getting to hold, examine and look at a card in person is one of the hobby's adrenaline rushes.

The Sports Card Shop in New Buffalo, Mich. is a family affair. Owned by the Gotcher (pronounced "Go-Cher") family and run by parents Rex and Tina, along with sons, Owen and Max, it is becoming a hobby destination.

Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson poses with the Gotcher family at The Sports Card Shop in New Buffalo, Mich.

Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson poses with the Gotcher family at The Sports Card Shop in New Buffalo, Mich.

Also See: Top 40 eBay sports card sales of 2022 

It started in 2017 when the collecting bug hit young Owen and soon Max was along for the ride. Soon the family was attending shows, garage sales and hobby shops and the boys were wheeling and dealing with other collectors and dealers alike. Eventually they started to do the same on eBay.

Rex and Tina knew it was a great opportunity for them to learn business, commerce and logistics along with other skills not necessarily taught in school. Rex and Tina both have retail backgrounds. Rex has run retail stores for Nike, Brooks Brothers and Home Depot, while Tina also ran stores for Home Depot.

They established a relationship with a distributor and decided to convert some space from an existing retail space they were running into an LCS. Soon the shop had its own dedicated space.

The Gotchers follow a “customer-centric” model and want to provide a great experience to all those that step inside. They've decided to avoid breaks and bulk grading submissions to avoid the bumps that give card collector's fits. As traffic grew they started to work on and grow their social media presence. They established direct accounts with all the major card manufacturers. Things took off from there and they had no choice but to expand their square footage, doubling the shop in size.

Collectors shop at The Sports Card Shop.

Collectors shop at The Sports Card Shop.

Also See: Collectors show support for Bills' Damar Hamlin 

They added Hot Wheels cars along with more collectibles and memorabilia. They also installed what they call their “Collector's Cave,” which features a big screen TV, arcade games and a shuffleboard table along with pool and ping pong tables. It created a fun, safe place for kids and adults alike to enjoy the hobby. Many birthday parties and sports teams get-togethers have been hosted there.

Another program they implemented was the ability for kids to exchange their good report cards for free sports cards. I wish that incentive was around when I was in school as I might've gotten better marks. Max and Owen are active in the shop and are great examples to the other kids that you can do things you might not think you are capable of.

Sales have almost doubled each year and they believe it's the focus on customer service that has made the difference. In 2023 they look to add more hockey and Pokémon collectibles and continue to buy more collections to add to their already impressive inventory.

They also plan to expand the LCS presence by being active with youth sports, tournaments and youth fairs. They have formed strategic partnerships with “Father's and Son's Memorabilia” and the new ISO Commerce platform.

They are quick to give others credit for their success but it's their focus on kids and their great customer service that has made the Sports Card Shop a fun hobby destination.

John Newman is a collector, dealer and the host of the Sports Card Nation podcast. Catch his Hobby Quick Hits on Monday and his guest interviews on Friday on your favorite podcast plat­form. You can reach him at sportscard­nationpc@gmail.com or on Twitter at @ sportscardnati1

Sports Card Nation Podcast

Sports Card Nation Podcast