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It's in the cards for collector; Hizeys Sports Cards opens in Auburn

Jessie Hizey recently opened Hizeys Sports Cards in Auburn - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Jessie Hizey recently opened Hizeys Sports Cards in Auburn
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

Jessie Hizey's journey from youthful sports card enthusiast to owner of his own sports card shop was long and circuitous.

Originally from Lakeland Hills, the 1999 Auburn Riverside High School graduate said he first started collecting cards in elementary school.

"I think I was 7 or 8, and my dad bought me a box of 1987 Topps football cards," Hizey said. "That's really how I started collecting."

A fan of San Francisco 49er great Joe Montana, Hizey said his adulation of the Hall of Fame quarterback was the impetus for his passion for cards. He even grudgingly admits to being a 49ers fan growing up.

"Don't tell anyone, but I was disturbed and lost as a child," Hizey said with a grin. "I think the first football game I ever watched was the Super Bowl game with the 49ers and the (Cincinnati) Bengals (in 1989). That's where the 49ers came into it. Plus, as a kid, it's always easier to like the better teams."

Hizey said he collected off and on for the next few years until he was about 13.

"I actually stopped collecting," he said. "I didn't really touch cards again until 2007 or 2008."

A visit to a local card shop while waiting for his wife at a shopping center, however, reignited his love of sports card.

"I thought I'd just go in there for old times' sake, bought a box of cards and five years later, here I am with my own shop," he said. "Michael Jordan was on the cover of the box, and it said you could possibly win a card autographed by him."

Although Hizey didn't come away with a Jordan signature, he did become reacquainted with his old hobby.

"Every few months I would buy cards. I started buying more expensive ones," he said. "Then I started looking online and thought, 'Oh, my god, what is this eBay thing?' It took off from there."

After a couple of years of wheeling and dealing online, Hizey received a 1099 (IRS report of income earned) form, detailing the money he had made from PayPal.

"I realized that I had a lot of money in sales," he said. "It didn't show the whole picture because typically I'll sell a card then buy a card. This was just the sales. But my wife (Phyllis) saw $75,000 in income for a hobby. It didn't show the expenses. I think in the end it figured out to be a $2,000 loss, but we got to talking.

"I had been asking her for a year or two to at least try opening a store," Hizey said. "There was something about that 1099 that made her agree to try it."

Hizey began researching where to open a shop.

"I really wanted to go to Graham, which is where I live, but it's in the middle of nowhere," he said. "There really isn't much of a need for a shop in that small of a town."

He checked out Puyallup, but ruled it out because of existing sports card shops. He eventually settled on Auburn.

"It was a central location without a shop," he said.

On Aug. 29, Hizeys Sports Cards opened its doors at 402 16th St. NE, Suite 104, near the Auburn Municipal Airport.

"The first month was pretty brutal," he said. "The second month it began picking up, and every month since then, with the exception of February, it's gotten better. Every new person that hears about the store helps."

Although Hizey said he's already attracted a strong core of regular patrons, it's the casual drop-in customers who help the store financially.

"The pop-ins tend to spend more money at once," Hizey said, "and the pop-in ones also tend to be the ones who actually buy memorabilia. So instead of a $20 purchase, it can sometimes be a $300 to $400 purchase."

Despite the financial risk and regardless of the outcome, Hizey is happy about his decision to open a shop.

"I figured if I wasn't going to be miserable working a job, 40 hours a week that I hated and make an OK wage, I'd rather get an OK wage and work for myself and be happy," the former warehouseman said. "And if it doesn't work, I can always say I used to own a sports card shop."

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