Sports card shop closed two weeks after opening

Sports card shop closed two weeks after opening

SMITHFIELD – Opening a business two weeks before the forced closure of non-essential retail shops is a “real bummer,” says Bob Lombardi of AJ’s Quality Sports Cards and Memorabilia in Smithfield.

But, Lombardi said he isn’t in the sports cards collecting business only for the money.

“Oh, the timing was not good. A lot of people are hurting right now. I’m going to open as soon as I can,” Lombardi said.

For the two weeks he was open, Lombardi said his business buying, selling, and appraising sports cards, memorabilia and collectibles was well received, and he is excited to reopen.

For now, Lombardi said he is going to lay low and expects he will be able to reopen in a month or so.

For him, collecting and trading sports cards is a hobby from his past that reconnects him to his childhood, and more importantly, his brother Anthony Lombardi, who lived for baseball.

“He was always into sports memorabilia. We were always into sports. We just liked it,” he said.

“This was a hobby. So I don’t do it for a living, I do it (as) more of a hobby,” he added.

Anthony died in 2009, leaving his lifelong collection of sports cards and memorabilia sold at his store, Coaches Collectables, to his brother, Bob, and Bob’s two sons. Lombardi remembers his brother would spend all his money on baseball cards growing up.

“He’d spend every dollar he had on them,” Lombardi said.

Honoring his brother’s wishes, Lombardi sold most of his brother’s memorabilia to set up a college fund for his boys. Both are now in school, one at the University of Rhode Island and the other attending Bryant University. The trio also helps run the family business, New England Frozen Lemonade.

Lombardi boasts of their involvement with his shop and interest in baseball cards. He said while baseball cards hobbyists are mostly older people who did it when they were kids, there is some interest from younger generations.

“We have all sorts of old-timers come in. You still have those guys coming in looking for cards from the 1950s and 1960s,” he said.

It boils down to a competition between old-school cards and new technology, Lombardi said.

“It’s kind of like especially in these times, or recent times, I’ve always said try to get the young kids back into it,” he said.

He said he is trying to get children involved, even though he is not sure how that is going to happen yet. He sells Pokemon and Magic cards in hopes of drawing a younger crowd.

Lombardi said any athlete that enters his store will be excited about the signed memorabilia.

“Anyone that likes sports will love the store. It’s a unique store. We’ve got stuff here you won’t see anywhere else,” he said.

But the competition with technology goes beyond video games, Lombardi said. Card enthusiasts are turning to the internet for in-demand cards or pricing.

Lombardi took over AJ’s Quality Sports Cards in North Providence about five years ago and moved to Smithfield to be closer to home. He said the location, at 3 Austin Ave., is better, and is more customer-friendly. A Smithfield resident, he said when he saw the opportunity to open a store in town, he made the move.

Lombardi still plays hockey and coached Smithfield Youth Hockey for nearly 20 years.

For now, Lombardi said, he is accepting appointments and making estimates over the phone. Call him at 401-578-8663.

AJS Quality Sports Cards and Memorobilia, 3 Austin Avenue, opened only two weeks before the mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus. Owner Bob Lombardi said the hobby shop is perfect for athletes who love sports, or sports card collectors who are looking for a piece of their childhood. (BREEZE PHOTO BY JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD)