Photo Gallery | Sports cards draw attention to business despite industry standard
For some, there is no better place to spend your downtime than at a local sports collectibles store in Bartlett.
Especially for Mike and Karen Kestner who enjoyed TNC Sports so much they ended up working there.
"I used to wonder where he would spend all day on Saturday, and now I know," said Karen with a laugh as she talked about her husband's enthusiasm for the store.
When you walk into TNC Sports, the fan related merchandise selection seems endless with hats, jerseys, tumblers and even toasters that will put a team logo right on the bread.
But TNC Sports, formerly called Tennessee Card Company when they opened in 1992, started with selling one of the most classic forms of sports memorabilia -- sports cards.
"The cards stuff, back in the 90s kind of peaked. Producing cards, probably twenty different manufacturers of cards, then and everyone was collecting them... Production went up, but the value of the cards went down," said Mike walking over to a case filled with vintage baseball cards.
He explained as pointing to a 50-year-old Willie Mays card that this card, like many other vintage cards, will hold their value because it was not massed produced. Whereas other greats baseball cards produced recently will not have the same value when they become vintage because there are so many of them.
TNC Sports is one of the few remaining stores in the Mid-South to sell sports cards. Most card companies that are still in existence today sell cards online.
"Everything on eBay or distributors sell cases of these, you know, to people. There is still a market for it but the Internet has kind of helped drive out. Why sell in a rented building when you can sell online?" said Mike
But Mike who has been collecting cards since he was a kid, said there is still value behind looking at the cards in the case and assessing the wear and tear yourself.
"It would be like buying clothes online," said Mike. "You have to pay for shipping and wait a couple of days."
Mike pulled a card out of the case and pointed to the corners. He said for a card that is 50 years old, it's not in bad shape - but that's not something you can see when buying online.
"You can look at it and see if a kid wrote his name on it back in the day," said Mike.
TNC Sports Owner, who also goes by the name Mike, said starting his business was inspired by seeing his son's interest in trading cards.
"The whole thing originated back when I was in the food business, and I came home from work one day and saw my son and two of his friends on the floor trading cards," said Mike Stramel.
At the time, in the early 90s, Stramel said the card trading business was booming pulling in billions of dollars nationwide.
"I thought to myself, 'I can do this,'" said Stramel recalling his decision to start Tennessee Card Company after going to a few card shows.
But the business is much different than when Stramel started 18 years ago which is why TNC Sports is one of the few remaining card shops in the state. Stramel kept a sharp eye to hobby store trends, and added other sports collectables to his store's stock and relocated to a new space when cards sales started to run low.
"It's kind of like the supermarket business, where I worked prior to becoming self-employed, you didn't have to figure out what to do for the store. You would let the store talk to you, if you're a good listener to your customers you will hear what the store is telling you in terms of what is moving and not moving," said Stramel.
Stramel and his team evaluates the store's sales every year to monitor what merchandise is working, but trading cards will always be the core of his business.