Instead of our usual Throwback Thursday format, we decided to highlight a Downtown Manchester staple for 35 years–Collector’s Heaven. We had a blast interviewing the Grady’s and we hope you enjoy the piece below!
Mike and Caren Grady have owned and operated Sports Fan/Collector’s Heaven in Manchester for 35 years this April. I went in this past Tuesday to interview them about their success, downtown Manchester, and some pretty incredible moments in their store’s lengthy history.
As soon as you walk into Collector’s Heaven, you know you’re in Red Sox territory. A huge 2013 Red Sox World Championship blanket hangs from the ceiling and every where you turn you see a Bruins, Red Sox or Patriots logo. A true paradise for any New England Sports fan! As customers strolled in, Caren and Mike treated each one as they were a member of their family. After all, New England sports teams sure know how to break your heart and we’ve all been through that pain together… (:
We started our conversation with a simple question–‘what do you think has kept you open for 35 years?’ Caren’s answer: “the great customers that have been coming to every store.” Mike added, “We are a fun, collectible type of business. We’re for enjoyment and to get away from life.” They said their store is bustling with “a steady stream of people that are second generation of their customers.” They often receive calls from grandmothers looking for a gift certificate for their grandsons, mothers coming in for a baseball card to cheer up their son deployed in Afghanistan, or you’ll see a young family come in to introduce their children to the art of collecting they began right in Collector’s Heaven’s doors.
Caren and Mike also shared some pretty incredible stories about the truly special opportunities they’ve had throughout the years. One particularly awesome story was how they came to be the owners of a Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth signed baseball. While in Cooperstown on vacation in 1978, they saw a classified for the baseball. They drove to a house in the country where an elderly woman and her sister lived. The women sat the Grady’s on the couch, gave them white gloves to put on, and showed them the baseball. The Grady’s, as Mike told me with a laugh, were then asked questions that they ultimately passed to be “allowed” to purchase it. They eventually sold the baseball to help fund the expansion of their store in the 1980s. While they miss the baseball, it remains Mike’s favorite piece of memorabilia they’ve ever sold.
Mike, of course, is a collector himself, with his favorite being Bob Feller memorabilia. Feller was the first guest at their 950 Elm Street location and signed autographs for every fan that walked through the door.
The Grady’s also aim to promote. When the LA Kings were thinking about moving to New Hampshire, they put up a huge sign in their window to welcome team to New Hampshire. They were asked to be the merchandise store for both the Monarchs and Fishercats when the team stores had yet to exist. In 2006, they promoted National Baseball Card Day and won the Best Store in North America and a scholarship for their work. They have also been involved in New Hampshire Day at Fenway Park, the All-Star Game at Fenway, and the Yankees & Red Sox Old-Timers game at Fishercats stadium among countless other events across New England.
The Grady’s have also received “tremendous” support from a number of past and present Manchester mayors. In September 2012, the Grady’s were visited by all of the Living Mayors of Manchester and were presented with a “Testimonial Proclamation with congratulations and recognition of being a successful local family business.”
During our interview, I had to ask their thoughts on Manchester. They believe Manchester is “the greatest city in the world with great history, nice variety and a lot to offer. Manchester has great colleges, hospitals and it’s close to Boston and the ocean.” Their vision for downtown is the same as many of us–there is nothing but good things in store. Caren notes Manchester has “an amazing airport, the best to offer road system straight to [Manchester’s] door, new industries (especially tech), and two professional sports venues” which contribute to Manchester’s sense of community.
To celebrate their 35th year in business, Collector’s Heaven will be hosting a number of events from the end of April throughout the summer including $35 and 35% specials and all other sorts of ’35’ happenings!
As an avid golf fan, I had to ask what it was like to meet Tiger Woods. They told me all about it and showed me some pretty incredible memorabilia. The Grady’s are fantastic storytellers and with 35 years under their belt, they have a lot of stories to tell. Collector’s Heaven is truly a special gem in Manchester and I recommend you stop by to experience the magic.
Written by Julia Whitney, Marketing Specialist at Intown Manchester