A sports card store hits a home run


FAIRBORN – Sports card collectors and memorabilia enthusiasts have a new hub to stop at, thanks to recently opened Gem City Collects in downtown Fairborn.

Although they opened their brick-and-mortar store just nine months ago, 36-year-old husband and wife team Christina and Robert Hensley have been in the game selling cards and souvenirs since 2018, two years after their marriage and four after first meeting through friends.

Christina, born and raised in Fairborn, and daughter of the owner of Gordon’s Fairborn Shoe Repair, a longtime local stalwart, hadn’t much liked maps or memorabilia until she met Robert, a Springfield native who loved collecting and selling cards since childhood. A physiotherapist who recently delved into the field of workers’ compensation management, Christina developed a passion for cards and keepsakes due to her relationship with Robert, who worked most of his life in factories. manufacturing parts for semi-trailers.

The two started a precursor to Gem City Collects in their basement through a small organization called CB Sports (whose origin stemmed from the combination of “Christina” and “Billy”, Robert’s nickname).

Finding success selling and trading cards online through platforms such as eBay and specialist card market app Loupe, the Hensleys decided it was time to branch out into the offline world with their own store, launching Gem City Collects in mid-2021.

Although they are of course now aware of the connection between the name of their chosen store and the nickname of neighboring Dayton, the duo claim that it was a coincidence and that the real reason for choosing “Gem City” was simply the idea to find a hidden “gem”. in cleaning sports cards. Oddly enough, they were sometimes initially mistaken for being a store selling genuine gemstones and other gemstones due to their name and closeness to Coyne crystals.

“I didn’t even really know Dayton was called that, because I’ve never really been there much before,” Robert said. “After we added ‘sports cards and memorabilia’ to our store windows, confusion with what we were selling inside wasn’t really an issue. It helped a lot. People pass by and see that.

Robert revealed that although they had a rocky start to their first week of operation, wondering if they might have made a mistake in opening the store, movement in the business quickly picked up. sped up and after their rocky start, they were and are now swamped with local collectors looking for the store’s unique stock.

It has been a particularly enjoyable experience running the store, said Robert, who is grateful to not only be able to operate a business that is a personal passion, but also one that he runs with his wife.

“We work well together,” Robert said. “We both have a lot of aspirations and ambition to do better.”

“I didn’t really know his passion would turn into my passion,” Christina said, thinking back to the team’s early days selling products from the basement before taking the leap as a store owner.

“We were doing really good business with CB Sports and we just kept getting bigger,” Robert said, with Christina saying that they notably hit their stride in 2020 and during peak COVID times.

“People were stuck at home, a lot of them were laid off and had less to do and were going through old boxes and things, maybe going back to their old hobbies like card collecting,” he said. Christina said. “Whatever the reason, we really took off at the time and realized that moving to a real store was the next logical step. Especially since our basement already looked like a small store with products stacked on shelves everywhere. , anyway.

“We sell a lot of Pokémon cards and baseball cards,” Robert said, adding that although he’s always been a sports fan, he’s had so many customers asking him about Pokémon cards that he felt it was time they expanded their offerings to include anime-based trading cards.

“I don’t know much about Pokemon, but I’ve learned a few. I still don’t know much about them, but I know enough at this point, and we just want to make sure that we know the customers in our area and what they are looking for when they come to the store.

To further expand their store’s reach in the community, Robert said the store’s next step is to host in-person events such as BBQs where they will be giving away freebies and card packs, in addition to “evenings.” commercial” where customers can come to socialize and exchange their cards together in a “safe and welcoming space that will suit all ages. They can trade sports and Pokémon cards, or even Magic: The Gathering or other card games.

As an avid collectible fan and now operator of his own store offering the same, Robert said: “I always grew up playing and loving sports as a kid. Especially baseball. And that led me to collect baseball cards and then other sports cards.

“There’s just something about it,” he said. “I love their designs. I like to cheer on my favorite teams and players, having collected these particular cards for my own collection. Then you get autographed cards, and you might have one that only a few other people around the world have also autographed, like a rare Mickey Mantle or something.

“To me, it’s not a job,” Robert said. “I could do that 18 hours a day without batting an eyelid. I wake up and smile, and I can’t wait to come to the store. I meet new people. You never know what comes into the shop. Maybe someone will bring a ten cent or $25,000 card. You never know what will happen next. And that’s what makes it so fun for us to do what we do and why we look forward to continuing to grow in the future.

Downtown Fairborn’s new sports card and memorabilia store, Gem City Collects.

Photos by Mathew Klickstein | Greene County News Christina and Robert Hensley, owners of Gem City Collects in downtown Fairborn.

Downtown Fairborn’s new sports card and memorabilia store, Gem City Collects.

Contact Mathew Klickstein at 937-372-4444.

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