Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh So Late, But Here's My Post for Blog Bat Around V

I can't believe I totally forgot about this. If dayf decides not to include it, so be it. But he seems to have given slackers like me a bit of a reprieve, and a bit more time, so here's my attempt at it.

This is the fifth edition of the wildly popular Blog Bat Around. Started by Gellman, who hosted not one, but two of these things, it was continued by Dave, Patricia took the next turn, and now dayf the Cardboard Junkie is hosting. Click on the links (you know, those underlined word things) to see each of the first four bat arounds, plus dayf's topic for the fifth, then come back here.

The topic this time around is a simple one, but I might have covered it multiple times on this humble little blog:

"What is the best experience you have had acquiring cards or memorabilia?"

Now I've talked about my adventures in getting Jose Tolentino's 1992 Topps card a number of times (including on another bat around). And I've talked about my first foray's into collecting (how I got started in this crazy Hobby of ours). So I've been racking my brain trying to think of something...

After I got married, with extra money to burn back then, I thought I'd never find any card shops in the new neighborhood that I was now living in. Far from home, knowing that there were no more card shops in that area, I was in a bind. Now, I was going to a couple of card shops in the suburbs near the bakery my parents owned, but I wasn't in that area often enough to make regular trips to the shop. So I was in a bit of a bind.

At the end of the 1999 baseball season, I received the newest Yellow Pages directory. I let my fingers do the walking to see if there were any Hobby shops nearer to me. And then, there it was. A shop called the Friendly Card Finds. The address looked close to where I work, so I gave the shop a call. The owner of the shop, one Brian Proulx, answered, and we ta;led for a bit. I asked him when 2000 Topps was coming, he said in November, but 1999 Topps Traded was in stock right now.

What? Did he say 1999 Topps Traded??? I thought they stopped making an update set in 1995. As I soon found out, the Topps company brought the 'Traded' set back into production. With my wife at work, and me with realistically nothing better to do, I decided to make the trip to his shop and get one of these boxed sets.

The shop was indeed near where I worked, and the shop Brian opened was rather clean. He had opened the year before and was establishing a customer base. In fact, the day I arrived, he was advertising an autograph signing with Curtis Enis, the Bears' most recent draft pick. We chatted a bit, I got my set, and couldn't wait to open it up and put it into the collection. Needless to say, he gained a new customer that day.

For the next few years, I would stop by his shop whenever the newest Topps releases came out (Series I, II, and then the Traded set). And he would even call me as soon as the shipment arrived. When that call came, my lunch hour couldn't come fast enough. I'd go in, get my cards, go to the Subway next door, and go back to work. It became a tradition to go there after getting my cards.

In 2002, Brian started giving me extra copies of the sales sheets of the next Topps product. Soon after that, he was letting me have the pre-production cards that came with the flyers. I was getting spoiled with all the free goods, but hey, he was doing his best to keep his customers happy. And I was more than happy to take them. Anything to make my collection more unique.

He even called me one night to say that a guy sold him a 1978 Topps set, and thought I'd be interested in it. Of course I was. That night, he showed the box, told me to take a look at the cards and then come back and pay for it after checking on condition. He was basically trusting me with a set that could have potentially been worth $150.00 if all the cards were in near-mint condition and letting me take it home BEFORE paying. What a guy. It turned out that the set was missing five cards, but I knew where to go and get them, so it was no big deal. The cards were in excellent shape, no creases, so he basically sold it to me for a really decent price..

Brian brought in a couple of retired ball players to sign at the store. I missed meeting Andy Pafko, but was able to get something signed (the image of a 1952 Topps card in my "300 Best Baseball Cards of the 20th Century" book), but got to meet Ron Santo on a chilly evening (he signed my huge Topps book, right where the picture of his 1961 Topps Rookie Card was). Fun times.

It was in late October/early November in 2005, after buying a couple of boxes of the Updates and Highlights set from him, he dropped a bombshell that to this day has changed the way I buy my cards. He announced that he was closing his store. I couldn't believe it. Between the new MLB Properties rules and the fact that the market was indeed changing (with the advent of eBay and all), he felt he could no longer stay in business without losing money. I was crushed. Where was I supposed to go now? What was I supposed to do? How am I going to get my sell sheets and promo cards without paying for them??? It was a sad day indeed. The last time I saw Brian, he sold me a couple of boxes of 2006 Topps that he was able to order before the store closed. It was weird, standing in the parking lot outside of where his store used to be, near his car, making the transaction. If the cops came, they would have asked questions (it did have the appearance of him selling something suspicious out of his car, even though it was only baseball cards). Sadly, I have not seen him since. He did call me a couple of times saying that he was able to get 2006 Topps Series II boxes, but by then, I had already bought the set from another shop (back to the shops near the bakery for me), so I had to politely decline.

Now, this story may have taken a sad ending. And I'm sorry for the tone. But I will never forget Brian Proulx and the Friendly Card Finds. He helped shape my collection to where it is now, and for that, I will never forget him and the shop.

I do hope he's doing well.


JayBee Anama


night owl said...

Great stories can be sad, too.

Wish I knew a hobby store owner like Brian.

TDLindgren said...

I long for the days when there were card shops and shows in my area, but sadly they are not.

I enjoyed going to my local shops, even just to pick up a Beckett, because the talk always centered around Baseball Cards.

For me there was always a great feeling of anticipation heading into a show either as a dealer or buying. Which I still get occasionally by going to the National every 3 years in Chicago.

Now we have eBay, blogs and message boards and although they're good in their own way, the personal interaction for me is gone.