The village of Ballston Spa is already well-known to Capital Region antique collectors for its bevy of shops in the downtown area.
Now, sports memorabilia collectors have not one, but two new stores to choose from within one block from each other.
Out of the Park Sports Cards and Doubleday Sports Cards both opened within days of each other earlier this spring. Prior to that, it had been some 15 years since Ballston Spa — the birthplace of baseball inventor Abner Doubleday — had a similar kind of store.
Tracie Fitzgerald co-owns Out of the Park with her husband John. She doesn’t mind having another sports memorabilia store right down Milton Avenue. In fact, Fitzgerald welcomes it, figuring most card collectors will take the short walk and check out both stores. “The more the merrier,” Fitzgerald said. “Most customers will say ‘I can go to two sports card stores instead of just one.’ ”
Doubleday co-owner Jon Taisey said, “We see it as a good thing. He comes down to our store, we go up to his, to see what we both have. We work off each other, we have different stuff.”
Although Out of the Park offers a wide range of sports memorabilia, Fitzgerald says they specialize in vintage baseball cards and helping collectors complete their sets. Customers can fill out a form indicating what year, brand and set number they are looking for. The store also offers customers hard-to-find items in other sports.
John LaVigne of Saratoga Springs purchased the cards of two ’70s-era NHL players, Bobby Nystrom of the New York Islanders and Steve Durbano of the Pittsburgh Penguins. LaVigne said he had spotted the store recently while driving on Malta Avenue and decided to stop in Thursday after conducting some business at an insurance agency next door. “It’s nice to have this shop here. The good thing is, they’re not outrageously expensive,” LaVigne said.
Fitzgerald believes the vehicle and foot traffic the location provides will be a major factor in making the business a success. What also helps is being right across the street from one of Ballston Spa’s premier sports bars, the Brickyard Tavern. “People will sit by the window while having a beer there and spot the shop. They’ll come in and buy cards,” she said.
Fitzgerald said they’ve had a positive response in the 21⁄2 months that they’ve been open for business. “It’s going very well. We’re seeing new faces every day, and new collectors every day.” Fitzgerald adds one of the challenges of running the business is making sure customers will see something different each time they come in. “We try to have something new. We switch cards out to keep things fresh.”
Fitzgerald said she and her husband, who live in Galway, will be heavily involved in the local community. She said the business plans to sponsor a Little League baseball team next season.
The community roots of Taisey and Doubleday business partner Jim Cottrell run even deeper. Both have parents who are long-standing business owners in the village. Taisey’s parents own the Medbery Inn & Spa on Front Street, while Cottrell’s mother owns the adjacent Finishing Touch Salon. That enabled Cottrell and Taisey to get a sweetheart deal on their lease because Debbie Cottrell owns the building. Doubleday Sports Cards is located in the basement, and at this point is more of a work in progress than Out of the Park. Unlike Out of the Park, Doubleday is a part-time business. “We’re only open 25 hours a week,” Taisey said.
Both Cottrell and Taisey have full-time jobs, although Taisey is about to lose his.
Taisey, 26, had been teaching art at Sacandaga Middle School, but his position was eliminated in the Scotia-Glenville school district budget. Taisey said he’s interviewed at the Corinth and Hoosick Falls school districts, but his uncertain job status won’t have any impact on the business.
“This is a business venture, and we want to make money, but it’s more of a hobby. We keep the overhead low.”
Taisey adds that he and Cottrell have been friends since childhood, and both have been collecting sports cards for nearly as long. Taisey said their business specializes in what they call “high-end products,” mainly unopened box sets, many of which have autographed cards.