Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BBA 5: Tony Carrasquillo

While I have had many experiences in card collecting (some amazing, some mediocre), the best experience I've had was with a card shop owner named Tony Carrasquillo.

I first met Tony in early 2007. I had just gotten back into collecting again and I was looking for card shops in the area. I was very unhappy with the shop I had started to go to and I was looking for an alternative, so I wouldn't have to deal with the two-faced owner.

I wandered into Tony's shop, RBI Sports, and was browsing the selection when he came up to me and struck up a conversation. We must have talked for at least a half hour during that initial meeting. Topics ranged from the state of the card industry to new product I might be interested in. He even showed me homemade blankets featuring each local sports team that he had for sale.

In getting to know Tony and his store, I learned that he opened up his shop around the same time I was exiting the hobby, in the mid nineties. He stays loyal to his regulars and wowed me with tales of kids who would come to his shop in the nineties, who would bring their children in to meet Tony and to purchase cards.

This display was in stark contrast to the shop I had been going to previously. This was a warm, friendly environment that welcomed everyone who stepped in. I had not experienced that feeling since I was a kid.

Tony was instrumental in keeping me in the hobby, with his attitude and graciousness. I was new to relics and thicker cards at that time. During our discussion of that, he offered a few different top loaders for me to try when I got home. I asked him how much he wanted for them. Tony just waved at me and told me not to worry about it. All he hoped was that one of them would fit the card properly.

"You want a fit that's not too loose, but you don't want to force it in there either", Tony explained. It's advice that I've tried to live by, in the hobby. I know it sounds silly, and it seems like common sense, but that bit of advice uplifted me and washed over like a serene and gentle wave. It's funny how the simplest gestures make the biggest impact on lives. This one sentence told me that I could trust Tony with any hobby needs that I might have.

Since then, I've been out of work a good deal of the time. I haven't been able to stop in and purchase packs or cards as much as I would have liked. When I do find myself with some money to burn, I try to stop in and purchase something.

Tony sold me my first few hobby boxes. Each time, as I left, he would shoot me a smile and wish me good luck with whatever box or pack that I had purchased. I have always gone into the store with a smile on my face. The prospect of getting new cards will do that to a collector. I always leave with a bigger smile.

If I would have known about Tony's shop when it first opened, I may not have left in the first place. Hindsight is 20/20 though. The positive influences that I have gotten from going into his shop have kept me going. This was the first real spark in a move that was long overdue. I have Tony to thank for that.


Andy said...

Sorry to be morbid, but I thought for sure that this post was going to end with something like "Tony died last night." Glad I was wrong.

When my wife and I go each year to a B&B up in Maine, there's a guy with a card shop up there like that. He's the guy I bought that White Sox auto card from that I sent you a few months back.

Anonymous said...

I go to a shop where the owner is just like that. My collecting habits have been motivated by him. Whenever I start to think about stopping collecting, I end up going in anyways for a "last pack", I never leave that store without wanting to go back 15 minutes later. I relate to your story 100%

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