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Each month Upper Deck spotlights one of our hobby shops and shares some reasons why you should visit. This month we will be sharing information about a variety of hobby shops. I work as an account executive servicing the needs of hobby shops throughout the United States. In this role you get to meet so many great shop owners, but you often wonder not only what they are like in person, but what their store is like.
I had to head back home to Chicago recently, but I built in some time to stop in on some of the shops in the area because some of our best customers have shops out there. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to drop in on everyone I would have liked to as there are quite a few in the Illinois area, but I really enjoyed getting to spend some time with the shops I did see. And I think if you have time, you should try to make the rounds through the Chicago area like I did as there are plenty of great retailers with amazing stores to visit.
My first stop was at Baseball Dreams and Memories, down in Crestwood, Illinois. I had worked quite a bit with the owner Ron Johnson and his assistant Debbie there and I wanted to pay them a visit as I was recently reviewing their original store photos from 20 years ago when they first started buying Upper Deck products. I wondered how the shop might be the same or different. The signage looked the same, but the store had doubled in size. They had expanded and taken over the vacant shop next door a few years back and it is a good thing they did because they had a lot of product. Not only do they have a huge supply of sports cards, they also had a great supply of memorabilia. They have one wall of single cards strictly from retired baseball players that was really fun to check out. You should also check out their back room which has a variety of cards to go through and magazines as well.
Baseball Dreams & Memories
Owner: Ron Johnson
5435 W 135th Street
Crestwood IL 60445
Store Hours: Mo,Tu,We,Fri,Sat 10-5, closed Thurs & Sun.
Next up was a visit to John Merkel at Elite Sportscards and Comics, on the north side of Chicago. John has a great location, and is well known in the area. He had a few tables set out because he runs TCG (Trading Card Game) tournaments for the local kids on Saturdays. He says he has a lot of kids who are great customers and have really grown into true collectors. He is going on 17 years at his location so John definitely knows how to run a successful shop. Elite focuses mainly on cards, but there is some awesome memorabilia you have to check out. Not only did they have great Chicago memorabilia, but also other unique pieces and a cool hand-painted mural as well that is signed by both the artist and player.
Elite Sportscards & Comics
Owner: John Merkel
2028 West Montrose
Chicago, IL 60618
Store Hours: Tues-Fri 11-5:30, Sat 10:30-4, Sun & Mon by appt only
My third visit was Dave Pearson of Dave’s Dugout in Niles, Illinois. Dave was harder to find, as he was missing exterior signage, but he’s working on that. He is in the process of having a new City-approved sign, but for now his loyal customer base knows where to find him. I arrived just before closing time, and Dave was busily stocking shelves, as he had just received a large shipment that day. Or course, it was mostly Blackhawks product, as Chicago fans are still celebrating the Blackhawks bringing home the Stanley Cup last season. Dave’s store is smaller, but chock full of awesome cards and collectibles alike. You’ll have to stop by to check it out for yourself.
Owner: David Pearson
8043 North Milwaukee Avenue
Niles, IL 60714
Store Hours: Mon-Sat 1-7, closed Sun & Mon
That night I attended the Chicago Blackhawks game and they were victorious which had the Chicago faithful in great spirits. I got to bed and prepped for another big day. My second day of store visits led me to Bergie’s Sports Card Dugout in Highland Park, Illinois. I had chosen to visit Andrew “Bergie” Bergman on this day as I knew he had PSA/DNA in his shop to authenticate & grade Memorabilia for his customers so I figured it would be busy, and it was. Bergie’s store is in a row of basement shops, and not very visible from the street level, but people definitely know where he is as there were plenty of people coming through. Additionally, Jim & Steve’s Baseball Card Shop from Waukegan, IL, brought their customer base over for the authentication event so I was delighted to be able to meet and chat with owner Steve Wilson, whom I did not think I would have time to see on this short trip. Bergie does a lot of deals with athletes so he has a ton of great memorabilia you just have to check out in person.
Bergie’s Sports Card Dugout
Owner: Andrew Bergman
474 Highland Avenue
Highland Park, IL 60035
Store Hours: Mon- Sat 9:30-4:00
My second stop of day two brought me to Keith McDonough’s Bleachers Sportscards in Winnetka, Illinois. Keith has a beautiful store in this upscale community. There were so many great memorabilia pieces adorning the walls and racks, it was hard to pick out a favorite. Keith’s business is mostly memorabilia and he works with a local framer to create wonderfully unique collectibles. He also had an extensive selection of cards in singles, packs and boxes. He had a promotion going on where he was giving away a rookie football signed by over 30 players and had me draw the winning recipient. The winner was beyond happy and made his way to Bleachers quickly to claim his prize. This is really a great shop to visit if you are a sports fan, don’t miss it!
Owner: Keith McDonough
557 Chestnut Street
Winnetka, IL 60093
Store Hours: M-F 12-5, Sat 10-5, Sun by appt.
My third stop today was to see Tim Herron of Tim’s Baseball Card Shop on the Northwest side of Chicago. I had wanted to see this “average guy” who had made it big with his store winning a spot on a Super Bowl commercial. You may have seen that story as it ran in an older Upper Deck blog. I was greeted by Miranda, Tim’s mom, who was just so sweet and then got to meet Tim as well. It was fun to watch Tim’s mom as she doted over the customers giving them encouraging words as they opened up packs. Tim’s is a smaller store, but there is plenty to see there whether you collect cards or memorabilia. I felt very at home at Tim’s, they definitely know how to treat their customers, which is something I felt like all the shops I visited had a knack for.
Tim’s Baseball Card Shop
Owner: Tim Herron
4549 North Western Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625
Store Hours: Monday-Friday 12-7, Saturday 12-6, Sunday 12-5
On my final day of store visits I only had time to drop in on one customer and it was Steve Chou at Galaxy Stores in Naperville, Illinois. I found Steve’s store to be the most organized of all the stores I had visited, which is saying a lot because all the stores I visited were pretty well organized. Galaxy had a whole corner of entertainment cards (TCG’s), as well as tables set up for tournaments to take place. Steve and his lovely wife Frances showed me around the store. They shared with me a recent write up they had been featured in from their local newspaper as well which was really cool to see. Steve never thought he would be in this line of business, but his son, Jeff, became a collector at an early age. Soon, Steve gave in, growing to love the industry as well and he opened up the shop. Steve has a tremendous amount of cards, all organized in boxes and cubbies, and some memorabilia worth getting a look at as well.
Owner: Steve Chou
1235 South Naper Boulevard
Naperville, IL 60540
Store Hours: Monday-Friday 11-6, Saturday 11-5
I ended my visit, securing the last of my Chicago souvenirs and local delicacies, and headed to Midway airport for my return flight home. What a great experience it was to get out and meet so many of the customers I speak to each day. It’s really powerful to actually get to see their store and talk about ways we can work together to help them be more successful. I look forward to helping them all with a new sense of understanding. It was a whirlwind tour to say the least, but it was a great experience and reminded me why hobby shops are so much fun. So what are you waiting for, get out there and check some of these shops out!