If you didn’t know it was there, it would be easy to miss A.J.’s Sports Stop. The tiny shop is a slightly removed from Maple Avenue, and overshadowed by the larger abandoned Marco Polo Restaurant next door.
But for any lover of sports cards or tabletop games, inside is a treasure trove — and one that could disappear within a year.
Rick Lucian, one of the owners, said that the store has been tucked away off Maple Avenue since 1980. Lucian joined the store ten years ago, having grown up with a love of sports cards.
The store is an assortment of odds and ends related to all sorts of sports or geeky memorabilia. There’s Warhammer figures on a front shelf and comics nearby, plus board games.
“Magic: The Gathering is the biggest item that we sell,” said Lucian. “Magic has grown a lot over the years.”
But the real focus of the store is trading sports cards, baseball in particular.
Lucian says the store makes a special effort to be friendly to new card collectors. To those who are just starting out, Lucian says to just pick your favorite team and start collecting, like grabbing a packet of Nationals cards.
The arrival of eBay and overproduction of sports cards has hurt the collecting industry since its heyday prior to the turn of the century. Lucian says the store has adapted to keep up with the times, but the plans for changes along Maple Avenue could mean the end of A.J.’s, at least in its current location.
Lucian said developers are working on a plan to redevelop the Marco Polo site, and it seems inevitable that their store will get caught up in that.
“Most likely we’ll only be here for another year,” said Lucian. “They’re looking to demolish and build something new here. So we’re looking around for a new storefront and we would like to stay in Vienna, but the rents are high.”
In the meantime, Lucian says the store will continue to be Vienna’s one-stop shop for cards and tabletop games.
In an era of constant electronic stimulus, Lucian said there’s still something special about a kid opening up a pack of baseball cards.
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