Card store moves into new era
BY KAITLIN SLOAN
OU News Bureau
Raad Ankawi holds his own at his Sterling Heights sports card collectors shop in this ever-advancing era of technology.
Ankawi was a card collector after he came to America in 1966. He and his oldest son, Bryan, decided to start up a hobby business.
In 1989, Grand Slam Sports Shop opened on 17 Mile and Ryan Road. Its grand opening featured now-retired Red Wings winger Joey Kocur, who signed free autographs.
When Grand Slam opened, collecting cards was popular. Now, you won’t find a family-owned store like this in Sterling Heights.
Ankawi’s shop offers items such as, new and old cards, signed baseballs, bats, hockey pucks and footballs.
“We have great customer service,” Ankawi said. “We have everything a collector needs. It’s a complete one-stop hobby shop. It’s for everybody.”
Ankawi came to this country from Baghdad, Iraq, when he was 15 years old. He purchased 5-cent decks and collected the English D.
“Before, you’d go to the park and play catch and sit down and open up new packs. Now, kids would rather be on their computer or iPhone,” Ankawi said. “It’s just the way things are right now, we’re moving forward and everything is more advanced.”
The customer base is less. Today, the majority of his business comes from high-volume buyers. Prices of box sets of cards have increased over the years.
“We’re trying to move up in the new era. We’re a little old fashioned but Dave is pretty good with the internet,” he said.
Dave Rivetto, Ankawi’s business partner, was a frequent customer before working at the store.
“I would volunteer to run the store when Raad would go on vacation with his family,” Rivetto said. “Raad is going to retire soon, so he asked me to be partners and now I’m next in line to run the store.”
Ankawi carries cards in his store that cost up to $500. The 1954 card for Detroit Tigers rookie Al Kaline is worth about $400. An average baseball card costs $100. Cards from the ’50s and ’60s rank higher in price, especially if they are in good condition.
“Just like people like to fish or go bowling, that’s like collecting cards. You can just enjoy reminiscing about the old days,” Ankawi said, “Now, (collectors are]0) older and they like to get the players cards from their childhood. It’s a hobby first and an investment second.”
The heyday for card collecting lasted from 1981 to 1992 when cards were cheap and kids didn’t have electronic devices.
Now, Ankawi expands his sales to sites such as eBay and has an email chain for customers who sign up. Each week, Ankawi sends an email with store updates, sales, discounts and new arrivals.
“The only thing I would change would have been getting into social media earlier than we did,” Ankawi said. “I never got the chance to learn English from the ground level. My kids have been trying to teach me how to navigate the internet.”
In 2010, Ankawi dealt with the loss of his 18-year-old son, Craig, in a car crash. Craig frequently worked with his father in the shop and was a big hit with the customers.
“This store pretty much saved my life because they’re so many memories of Craig here,” Ankawi said. “He loved working for me. There’s a piece of him here.”
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