From the customer’s perspective, Rob Veres and his family might have the greatest job one could ever find.
Veres certainly isn’t complaining.
But he also knows that things are not as they may seem to the outside world.
Veres is the owner of Burbank Sportscards. This week his business expanded by having an official grand opening Saturday in a new location at 1610 W. Burbank Blvd., its fourth-place since 1989 when Veres and his father Stephen bought Donald S. Osborne Coins and Stamps. The move was is just a block from its previous home, which will remain as the company warehouse.
“It is living a dream. But you’ll never have a harder boss than yourself. It looks sexy on the outside, but there is no guaranteed paycheck,” said Veres, 54. “I’m a kid. I play drums in a rock band. I play with baseball cards for a living and drink beer and watch sports at work. It’s extended adolescence. It’s a good job if you can get it.”
A Burbank resident since 1978, Veres said he got started in collectibles before he could even drive, delivering fliers to help bring customers to Osborne. He would get a penny for each car and two cents for each house he would put a flier on.
“I was going to the biggest parking lots I could find to get a penny a car,” recalled Veres, who said he had about 400 people Friday night for a trading card event.
Since buying the business when he was just 22 years old, the Burbank High graduate said he has learned on the job and found a way to make a hobby a career.
“You don’t learn how to relate to customers, how to merchandise, how to buy things, people’s possessions that they have a sentimental attachment (to) that you try to put a number on and negotiate,” Veres said. “It is hard. It is a skill and it isn’t learned in school.”
The emergence of the internet and most specifically eBay have helped Veres grow to where he now has 27 full and or part-time employees.
“With eBay, you have to have images. We hired a small army and got some high-speed scanners and we scanned about 2.5 million unique items in about two years. We have a team that does nothing but images,” said Veres, who said his warehouse now contains 42 million sports cards.
Veres, who along with his father are members of the Kiwanis Club Burbank, said his company is now the 11th largest volume seller on eBay in any category globally.
“The hardest thing to do was to scale both retail and e-commerce simultaneously. We had chosen e-com for decades. We weren’t relying on just 50 square miles, we were relying on the world,” Veres said.
Veres credits adapting to technology, trends, and trying to understand the business from the customer side of the counter as his keys to success.
The newest location of Burbank Sportscards offers a fan to come physically get the experience of seeing cards of their athletes.
Veres credits his 26-year-old son Ryan for bringing the new showroom experience to the fans and collectors.
“Now we can scale e-com and retail simultaneously,” said Veres, whose new shop has walls covered with photos from local sports photographer Mitchell Haddad. “Our foot traffic just exploded.” Veres has also relied on the Burbank community to help grow his business.
“Now we have Mike Graceffo working here. Nobody knows more people in Burbank than Mike. He’s coached every kid the last 45 years,” Veres said of the longtime local sports coach.
Veres said he has had countless teenagers work for him over the years.
“We keep a lot of people off the streets in Burbank. I’ve been the first boss for so many teenagers in this city. I’ve had so many kids with their first jobs working here,” said Veres, who cited Burbank High social science teacher Ernie McGinnis as being one of those. “There are countless stories of guys in their 40s who come in with their kids who worked for me and make me feel old.”
Darren Zeledon is a current Burbank High student who works at the store.
“It’s a blessing. I have loved cards since I was little. Just being able to work in one of the largest sports card stores, really means a lot. It is cool to have all these interactions with people, meet new people and do what I love,” Zeledon said.
Keeping the business kid-friendly is something important to Veres, who has also donated thousands of cards to young sports fans.
“We’re trying to cater to the 8 to 12 market. We’re trying to get moms in here. It is a clean place. It is well stocked. It is friendly. Baseball card shops aren’t always known for those things,” Veres said.
With the new location, Veres has made the decision to stay open seven days a week for the first time.
But then again, this is just a pastime.