Glen Humenik is splicing Mickey Mantle with Marilyn Monroe, adding a little Jack Nicholson to a heavy dose of Wayne Gretzky.
In taking over Legends of the Game, a sports memorabilia shop in downtown Toronto, Humenik could have easily let things be.
Instead, he sought a fresh start.
“I wanted a new beginning,” Humenik said on Monday at the King Street West store he took over two weeks ago. “I’ve always been a big fan of Hollywood and the entertainment field.”
Sports card collectors and memorabilia enthusiasts will notice a few alterations at the entrance of the shop, now renamed From Hockey to Hollywood, where autographed baseballs are being fused with stars of the silver screen.
The hobby store, on the northeast corner of John Street and King, is still the place to pick up a pack of hockey cards, but now caters to a wider audience with the addition of movie collectibles.
With the Royal Alexandra Theatre and TIFF Bell Lightbox right next-door, the store’s former manager, and now sole owner, decided there was an untapped market of clientele who were passing by the store’s entrance daily and not stopping to peruse.
“There’s probably a lot more fans of music and entertainment than sports,” Humenik said. “I’m opening the doors to a bigger crowd.”
Even with the addition of showbiz items, sports collectibles will remain the driving force behind sales, and continue to dominate the floor space.
Video games and the internet have certainly made a dent in what was once the premier hobby for adolescent males, but despite what you may have heard, the sports trading card industry isn’t dead yet.
But, it has shrunk.
Like the companies that produce the cards themselves, the once oversaturated market of card stores has dwindled dramatically since the heydays of the mid-1990s.
At that time, the industry reached a feverous peak due to a boom in suppliers, stores and an unsustainable demand, with an annual valuation over $1-billion (U.S dollars).
Like a house of cards, eventually the business tumbled, and today the trade is worth somewhere in the ballpark of $200-million.
Still, at From Hockey to Hollywood, Humenik is confident there will always be that next kid in line looking to tear open a fresh pack in search of their favourite player, or the elder collector probing for a rare card featuring a childhood hero.
He sees the wide-eyed children come in with their parents daily, and the men in suits right off work.
An average pack of cards today runs anywhere from two to seven dollars, and there remains a luxury market for the deep-pocketed aficionados.
A hard-to-locate Bobby Orr rookie card retails for $3,500.
Steve Edgar, a manager at the store, has always maintained a positive outlook on the card and memorabilia industry, but believes retailers who formerly drove the market, got swept up in the ‘90s craze, and forgot about the customer.
“If little kids want to buy Pokémon cards, then you have to get Pokémon cards,” said Edgar, referencing the Japanese video game based trading cards, and schoolyard craze of the late-‘90s. “I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this industry, I believe there were some errors in direction.”
Edgar and Humenik are on the same page when it comes to driving the business forward, and have no reservations in tweaking the formula that they believe had gone stale under the operation’s previous management.
With an abundance of theatergoers in the neighborhood, and the addition of Hollywood merchandise, Humenik is banking on women becoming a new segment of his customer base.
Another subtle, but not insignificant, change clientele will notice is the improved level of customer service and an overall friendlier environment.
“That’s what the industry lacks; you have to be appreciative of the people who are coming to you,” Humenik said. “I like the idea of them [customers] coming in and feeling welcome. I like to know all their names.”