Interview with Mike Fruitman
By: Shane Salmonson
While much of the trading card business has moved online, there are still some thriving brick and mortar shops out there. One of the best (and one I hope to visit someday) is Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, Colorado. The man running the show is Mike Fruitman. Mike was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions for me about his shop, and how he keeps it relevant in the digital age.
BU: Thank you for doing this Mike! Tell us a little about yourself.
MF: I was born and grew up in Miami back when it was just the Dolphins so they were the only team I really knew until I left for Colorado in 1987. I started working at McNichols Arena and that turned me into a Nuggets fan. The transformation to Broncos fan took a few more years to accomplish.
BU: How were you introduced to the card hobby?
MF: I went to the Skipper Chuck Show (the Miami version of Bozo The Clown) and when all the kids left, I looked in my goodie bag and among that items in there, was a pack of 1978 Topps baseball cards. I opened it up, found my first nasty piece of gum and a Pete Rose card. That moment butterfly effected my life in a way I still debate as to whether it was positive or negative – lol.
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BU: What do you currently collect?
MF: As a shop owner, I learned the “collect” answer in the first week. Right when I opened, someone brought in a Joe Montana rookie when he ruled the school. I placed it in my case and turned down multiple offers from collectors who wanted to buy it as a Christmas present. The second week I was open, I had another one walk in and I then realized that I was either going to own a museum or own a store. I went with the latter and while it is callous, I purchase cards and other items to sell them, not to own them. That being said, I do have a weakness for animation cells. On rare occasions they walk in and those do make it to my PC.
BU: Any favorite pieces you’d like to share?
MF: I do have an animation cell featuring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan chasing some of the bad guys with an over sized pencil. Sorry, I know you were hoping for a 1952 Mantle or Wagner.
BU: How did you decide to open your own shop?
MF: I managed Stadium Sportscards (located nowhere near any stadiums) for a number of months when the owner of the store came in and asked me if I wanted to purchase it from him without any cards, but with the fixtures and all the regulars who already knew the shop was open. 2 days later, 12/11/1992, Mike’s Stadium Sportscards opened and I had barely a clue what I was doing. I’m not sure that’s changed much either.
BU: Many card shops have disappeared over the years, how do you keep your customers coming back?
MF: I learned a long time ago that I don’t own a store, I own a hangout with cards. If I just had a shop, then my collectors would be customers and I don’t like the idea of looking at people who walk in as $50 bills or 2 box per visit people. I’ve offered Trade Nights and weekly drawings for close to 2 decades and take pride in the kids who used to shop with me now bringing in their kids to enjoy the fun of collecting. Yes, that makes me old and I can handle that just fine. I also use social media and emails to share all the big hits, new arrivals, live breaks and all the other aspects of the shop that make it more like a hangout than a store.
BU: Which products currently seem to be the hottest sellers in your shop?
MF: I know this isn’t very specific, but EVERYTHING! It’s fun to be helping collectors enjoy as much NBA releases as they are this year and MLB/NFL have been on fire for multiple years. NHL sales are a bit off, but hockey collectors are rabid and in spite of some injuries and absence of rookie superstars, our NHL sales have still been respectable. Our single sales have been improving now that we are using social media more to let our collectors know of some of the singles and collections we have been picking up. I guess to answer your specific question, our best sellers of recent note would be 2018 Donruss MLB, 2018 Topps Heritage MLB, 17/18 Contenders NBA, 17/18 Select NBA, 2017 Contenders Optic NFL, 2018 Select NFL, 17/18 Upper Deck Trilogy NHL and 17/18 Upper Deck 2 NHL. If you ever want to see what is selling well for me, please check out my articles on www.sportscollectorsdaily.com. I write a “What’s Hot” article on there a little less often than my editor might like.
BU: What is your opinion of the current hobby? Does it seem like it is becoming popular once again?
MF: I don’t want to be too specific, but if you can get enough product these days, it might have never been stronger. It helps to be direct with each of the manufacturers as well as having healthy allocations from my distributors. The biggest issue I heard at each of the recent industry meetings was being able to buy enough instead of contending with products that are not being excitedly collected. If I was more specific, many of you might quit your jobs and open up shops down the street from my location.
BU: What do you think is key to keeping the hobby strong?
MF: There are a number of keys on the keychain. It starts with no economic issues since 2008, continues with some of the top rookies we have seen appearing in successive years, the manufacturers not going to town and printing out all that has been ordered and flooding the market, so much product is being sold through breakers and ensuring better sell through rates for releases and I’m sure I am leaving out quite a few components, but I’ll take this current streak as long as possible.
BU: Can you tell us a little bit about the honor you just received at the Topps Industry Conference?
MF: Basically, any number of shops did not attend the Conference and Topps had to settle for my shop to announce as Card Store Of The Year. With all the incredible shops out there, it is a true honor to be recognized and sadly it did not improve my parking spot at the shop, did not make me more attractive to my wife and did not help my allocations, but with so many other shops stepping up to do so much for their collectors, it really does mean that much more.
BU: If you had to choose a Mount Rushmore of trading cards, which ones would be on it?
MF: I happen to be drawn to the 1957 Topps MLB and 1963 Fleer MLB sets. While there aren’t any OMG cards in those sets, I would start with them, add the 86/87 Fleer NBA set, the John Elway rookie since that will be a big part of my son and daughter being able to attend college (my shop is in Colorado) and I guess the Wayne Gretzky rookie. Of course there are better singles and sets out there, but I have never owned a 1933 Goudey set and I have had the others at some point.
BU: Anything else you’d like to share?
MF: I constantly stop and appreciate how lucky I am to be able to own a hang out where collectors are able to enjoy themselves. While I have gotten older, I have not lost my love for the hobby and I hope that never changes. It’s been fun taking all that I have learned from so many other successful shops and being able to help other shops improve what they offer their collectors. I love seeing shops trying different things and engaging their collectors with trade nights, case breaks, personal box breaks and so much more. May we all enjoy this hobby for many more decades as well.
Mike’s Stadium Sportscards
4032 S Parker Road
Aurora, CO 80014
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