3 'big kids' bring sports collectibles shop to Chandler - East Valley Tribune: Business

3 'big kids' bring sports collectibles shop to Chandler

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Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012 7:45 am | Updated: 9:25 am, Mon Nov 19, 2012.

The three men behind the counter of the shop on the second floor of Chandler Fashion Center each come from different backgrounds, but they each share more than a few things in common:

Real estate agent Al Gordon, certified public accountant Angelo Bellone and full-time memorabilia dealer Neil Kotler, all of Phoenix, are big kids who love the passion of the chase of finding those hard-to-find items in the sports memorabilia, comic book and toy collector’s world.

That’s just part of what led them to opening the shop, Big Kid’s Collectibles, in an empty retail space inside Chandler Fashion Center, 3411 S. Chandler Blvd.

The shop, which provides an array of sports memorabilia, as well as comic and television memorabilia that date back decades, also is filling a niche which was left empty-handed by the closing of Atomic Comics in the mall last year and is serving a market of baby boomers looking to recover part of their youths as well as serious collectors.

The guy in the Star Wars storm trooper costume wandering around the shop is proof that the force is with them as the store has been generating traffic and buzz since it opened on Nov. 1.

Gordon, 57, the senior member of the trio who oversees the sports memorabilia end of the business and a native New Yorker, admits he thanks his mother for throwing away that shoebox full of baseball cards he left behind inside his bedroom closet.

“It’s the mothers of the world who created the craze for this stuff and made it more scarce and valuable,” said Gordon who honed his mathematics skills checking batting averages and adding up statistics on the back of baseball cards. “It was a passion that got out of hand, but it’s the fun of the chase in seeing what you can find or what someone brings into the shop to sell.”

What the shop offers

The Big Kid’s shop provides customers and those searching for gifts a museum-like appearance with the items displayed on shelves and from the ceiling throughout the store, a contrast to what has happened to most mom-and-pop memorabilia stores that went out of business due to memorabilia dealers selling their items on the Internet in recent years.

On the sports end, Big Kid’s features bobbleheads, framed autographed jerseys (including former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner for $299) and 16-by- 20-inch photographs of sports legends suitable for framing, and items from your favorite teams that are already is generating some traffic.

In “non-sports,” there’s also framed prints of super heroes from comic book artists, Star Wars figures (which recently were inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, N.Y.), NASCAR items, Hot Wheels and even collectible Barbies.

Most of the items in the store range from $1 to $25.

On Saturdays, Kotler also runs Collectors Marketplace, a memorabilia mall consisting of numerous dealers at Seventh Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix.

“We’re filling a niche in the mall,” Kotler said. “Last year, Atomic Comics closed at Chandler Fashion Mall, so people looking for these items have a place to shop again. We always buy items of interest, so if you have anything in your attic ...

“When people went online with these items and more people started shopping on the Internet, a lot of memorabilia shops closed down, but shows like ‘American Pickers’ and ‘Toy Hunter’ actually have helped these stores that are left,” Kotler added. “What we have here in the store only is a small portion of what we have in stock, so if you’re looking for something and don’t see it in here, just ask. We just might have it.”

Still a market for memorabilia, nostalgia

Bellone, a full-time memorabilia dealer, who recently purchased collections from Florida and El Paso, Texas, has about 30 years experience in the memorabilia business and is considered the “picker” of the bunch.

“It’s in my blood,” Bellone said of searching for items. He also purchased original comic book page art from Kevin Eastman, the artist of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when Eastman was a starving artist.

“I like going to different places to see what I can find. There’s still a market for memorabilia and nostalgia,” Bellone said.

Big Kid’s, which is just outside of Nordstrom and close to Just Sports, will be open in the mall until Jan. 5. Its hours are from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

“One thing we enjoy hearing from our customers when they walk into our store is, ‘You don’t see a lot of these shops anymore,’ and you don’t,” Gordon said. “If you’re a sports fanatic or a non-sports fanatic looking for comic or television-related items or looking to find someone a unique gift, there’s something in here for everyone.”

For more information, contact shop owners Al Gordon at (602) 692-3520, Neil Kotler at (480) 442-1117 or Angelo Bellone at (602) 770-5410.

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