Rookies Sportcards Plus Celebrates 30 years in Lowell

Thirty years ago, Donald L. Reedy Sr. said good-bye to real estate and hello to sports cards.

“I had gotten him into cards,” says his son Jack Reedy. “[And] he thought, I’ll just sell some sports cards.”

The elder Reedy was wrapping up a long career in real estate and had recently turned over the keys of his business to Greenridge Realty. His son was fresh out of college with a business degree in hand.

Together, they decided to open Rookies Sportcards Plus in downtown Lowell. Located on the bridge over the Flat River, the business was initially set up with a few cases of sports cards. However, Jack Reedy says it is good a thing they put the “plus” in the name because the business has evolved into so much more.

Now, on April 12, 2022, Rookies Sportcards Plus is celebrating 30 years in Lowell, and the store has become a destination for comic book, sports card and gaming enthusiasts from across the area. Jack Reedy still owns the store and says he can’t ever imagine leaving his spot on Main Street.

From Comic Books to Pokemon and More

The sport cards – and store name – can be credited to Donald Reedy, but Jack is responsible for the addition of comic books.

“I’ve always had a lifelong love of comic books,” he says, “so pretty quickly, we began selling comic books.”

The store also started stocking Pokemon cards which, rather than being a flash in the pan, have had true staying power as both a collectible and gaming item. “No one would have thought Pokemon would have been around so long,” Jack notes.

As interest in gaming grew, Rookies added more items and today has a full wall of games, ranging from the latest releases to “new classics” like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan.

Along the way, the store added some items that didn’t make the cut as long-term additions to the inventory. “We used to have t-shirts and hats,” Jack says. However, it soon became apparent that those weren’t flying off the shelf and with limited space, the Reedys decided to focus on three categories of products:

  • Cards
  • Comics
  • Games

COVID and Collectibles

Of course, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Rookies, along with all other non-essential shops, for a month and half in 2020. That time wasn’t just a challenge for the store, but for the comic industry as a whole.

“They actually, for the first time in my life, stopped publishing comics,” Jack says. Many comics are serials that are published weekly, but companies didn’t want to want to ship out books to stores that weren’t open.

Still, the pandemic wasn’t all bad. Jack says that collectibles are having a huge moment right now, probably partially due to the pandemic keeping people home and leading them to embrace new hobbies or rediscover old ones.

Pokemon cards are flying off the shelf and other than Meijer, Rookies is the only place in Lowell to find them. And sports cards are about the hottest they’ve ever been, according to Jack.

The challenge now is being able to keep items in stock as current supply chain issues continue to impact seemingly all industries. “Supplies such as binders have dried up,” Jack says.

Weathering Life’s Storms

Jack and Donald Reedy in 1999. Photo courtesy of Jack Reedy.

While fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is not the first time Rookies Sportcards Plus has had to weather a storm. Over the course of 30 years, there have been other bumps along the way, such as the closure of the Main Street bridge for reconstruction.

“I was the last man standing,” Jack says. During the bridge reconstruction, no other business occupied the block. Fortunately, the store’s loyal fanbase made sure to keep shopping even when the business was a challenge to access.

However, no time was more difficult than when Donald Reedy had to step away from the store after 12 years of running Rookies with his son. He suffered a stroke and passed away in 2010.

“It wasn’t fun for a little bit,” Jack says. As the youngest of three brothers, Jack says the store was a unique way to bond with his dad. “We were buddies,” he adds, and moving forward after his dad’s death was a challenge.

Downtown Destination for Fandoms

Rookies has come a long way from the days when the store was three bookcases filled with cards. It now hosts game nights, and its annual Free Comic Book Day – which is always the first Saturday in May – has turned into a bit of a mini Comic Con, according to Jack, with people from all over showing up dressed as their favorite characters.

“Nerdom is big,” Jack says. He also notes, “It’s key to have the right stuff at the right price.”

That’s something Rookies has seemed to do well for the past 30 years. Among its products are items that appeal to a wide variety of fandoms (aka communities of fans). While Jack doesn’t see anything wrong with electronic games, he has no plans to add those to his store, preferring to keep his inventory old-school.

As for the future, Jack doesn’t foresee any changes. He and his wife have one daughter, and it’s too soon to know if she will want to pick up the mantle and run Rookies in the future. Either way, there will likely be comic books, cards and games for sale in downtown Lowell for years to come.

For more about Rookies Sportcards Plus and information about upcoming events, visit the store’s website or follow its Facebook page.

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