Sitting in a garage loft scouring Upper Deck and Topps baseball cards, an idea sprouted amongst a group of Orchard boys.
Three decades later, the name Around The Horn Sports Cards — a term that references a double play beginning with a hit to third base and then thrown to second and first — couldn’t be more fitting for a sports memorabilia store that doubles as a recreation center for local youth.
“Seth Meyer came up with it. It was like 1990 or ’91,” co-owner Jeff Shabram said with a smile beaming from his face as he talked about the memory. “We built a loft in our garage and took our cards up there. Someone said, ‘Let’s start a business.’ In 1998, me and Dan Elsberry did it. ”
With torn tile and a musty antique smell, Around The Horn in Orchard is a sports collector’s dream on first glance. But the 1980s Genesis system in the corner, dart board on the wall, dice on the table and slew of games in the back room show why dozens of bicycles lean against the building every week day from 1 to 4 p.m.
“I’m there every day,” said 12-year-old Coy Wickersham, who listed a dozen of buddies who also rarely miss a day. “We look at cards, play those old video games and talk baseball. We talk a lot of baseball.”
Located in the former TJ’s Market building on Highway 20, Shabram said the late Cliff Erb, who was a legend on the diamond and coached Orchard’s 1977 state championship midget team, allowed Shabram to use the building rent-free when
when it opened in 1998. He pays utilities, which is only air conditioning in the summer, through a similar agreement that’s now between he and Todd Erb, who continues to run and own TJ’s Market.
“The Erbs have been very good to us,” Shabram said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
It’s hard to imagine a second base from Yankee Stadium sitting in a former grocery store in Orchard, but Shabram has the base from 2014, which happens to be Derek Jeter’s last year wearing pinstripes.
“It’s a game-used base. The pine tar is still on it,” said Shabram, who easily sounds more like a fan than a salesmen.
“Most of this stuff is Dan’s,” Shabram said, referring to his partner and longtime friend, Dan Elsberry. “He has enough stuff at home he could fill this store 10 times. He brings stuff up here and display them and puts them up for sale.”
Every year the two meet up and exchange memorabilia. Some items he sells on eBay, others he just rotates through to provide conversation pieces for the kids — like the signed Joe Montana jersey from Notre Dame on the top shelf in the corner.
Many of the items are signed, from jerseys to magazines, and most come with certificates of authenticity. He also has replica championship rings, pennants and much more.
Despite all of the incredible items, Shabram said the ones that mean the most to him aren’t for sale. He has trophies from the baseball teams he’s coached over the years, along with helmets from both the Orioles and the Cyclones, which sit beside a replica Tom Brady helmet that’s also not for sale.
“This collection of stuff are things my teams have earned over the years,” he said.
Cash Wickersham, 12 of Orchard, said one of his favorite items is the Wilt Chamberlain rookie card. Of course, there’s also the card with a piece of the floor where Michael Jordan played his last game.
That’s the card with the highest value, Shabram said, which is why his Peewee and Pony baseball players always ask what he will do if he sells the card.
“They want a sleep over,” Shabram said. “They asked if we finished in the top three at Quad County, if we could have a sleep over here. Then they asked if we won, if they could have several nights of sleepovers.”
Shabram and his wife, Amanda, have two sons, Gunnar and Wyatt. Gunnar will be a sophomore and often helps his dad after working at Sugarz in Orchard. Wyatt, an eighth-grader, still enjoys the shop with his buddies.
“My kids — Gunnar and Wyatt — have been down here all day, every day their whole lives,” he said. “We had a pack and play back behind, so if they got cranky, they could lay down. We could change their britches and put them down for a nap while we were here.”
Although Shabram hadn’t planned to have Around The Horn for nearly a quarter century, the Summerland science teacher and football coach said he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“This and the pool are really the main things to do in the afternoon,” he said. “You know, if it allows them interaction with their friends, rather than just sitting at home, it’s worth it. You know, if I didn’t have fun down here, I wouldn’t keep it open either. I like it as much as they do.”