Memorabilia dream job

SHERIDAN — Mike Rathbun and his wife, Mary, own the Sports Alley shop on North Main Street. The shop opened in 1994.
“I had my epiphany that work wasn’t what it should be,” Mike Rathbun said. “People always said ‘you are always happy when you are doing your (collector) cards,’ so it just morphed into owning my own shop.”

Rathbun still sells cards, but has also expanded his business to include other sports memorabilia as well as must-have fan accessories for college and professional teams.

I began collecting sports items…growing up in Aberdeen, S.D., which also had a farm team for the Baltimore Orioles. Every summer, the Orioles would come for an exhibition game and the players were extremely fan friendly. Cards cost five cents per pack and the game lasted all day. Cards could also transform your bike into a motorcycle with just a clothespin added to your spoke.

The most valuable item I have ever seen…was a Canadian tourist who had 138 Wayne Gretzky rookie cards that were $800 each at the time.

He didn’t want to sell them, but just enjoyed showing them off. I have had customers ‘pull’ cards from packs that ranged from $1,000 to $2,500. Smiles, however, are the norm when someone gets their favorite player.
If money were no object, I would buy…the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre would be my coach. Sorry Bronco fans!
My working career prior to this has been…with at-risk children. We moved to Sheridan in 1989 to accept a job with Volunteers Of America where I was program director for their foster care program. My store is the direct result of one particular boy that could only be motivated by baseball cards. Today, he is a sergeant in the U.S. Army and is stationed in Afghanistan. Be safe Jason!
What people would be surprised to know about my store is that…women are my best customers. They always remember birthdays, graduations, holidays, etc. and are also serious collectors themselves. I also have been in business long enough that my original customers’ children are now my new customers.
My dream vacation is…attending the NCAA basketball tournament championship. However, any day spent fishing always beats a day of working!

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