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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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Robert Katz knows sports. He’s worked in sports radio and as a producer with WNBC and WCBS in New York. Throughout his career, he’s worked with an assortment of big names—including Mike Breen, Marv Albert, Howard Stern and the Jewish community’s own Nachum Segal—and is now taking the next step in his career by opening a trading card and sports memorabilia store in Bergenfield.

Katz has loved sports for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he loved watching various teams and games, and dreamed of one day working in the industry in some capacity. That dream became a reality when he started working at NBC in 1981. However, despite achieving what he saw as a dream career, there was something that caused him to later decide to leave the industry.

“I was always being asked to work on Shabbat,” Katz shared with The Jewish Link. “While I loved the work I did, and had a lot of fun doing it, I also knew I couldn’t allow my job to compromise the fact that I’m an observant Jew. I regretfully walked away from my one truly God-given talent.”

That decision led him to earn his MBA and then go on to be an executive in the Jewish non-profit world for more than thirty years. However, that came to an end in October 2021, when he was let go from his position for the first time in his life.

“Being laid off for the first time was both shocking and eye-opening,” Katz continued. “But it also gave me the freedom to think creatively and entrepreneurially about what my next step would be. I knew it would have to do with sports. I can’t really put into words how excited and happy I am about that coming to fruition.”

Bergen County Sports Cards is located at 65 West Main Street, just down the road from Grand and Essex. A soft opening was held on May 2, and the Teaneck-Bergenfield community was thrilled to have its first sports card store in years. The store is packed with cards and memorabilia, and Katz says he plans to hold meet and greets with athletes that he connected with over his career.

“My main goal was for the store to be a nice, friendly place for sports lovers to go and feel among friends,” Katz continued. “We decorated the store to reflect that atmosphere: there’s signed bats and balls, and we even have a full-size cutout of Michael Jordan that kids can take pictures with. There’s also a ton of options for cards. Patrons can pick from the major sports and buy cards of their favorite teams and players.”

The collecting of sports cards—including Pokemon—saw a curious resurgence during COVID. TikTok celebrities like Logan Paul were opening packs on internet streams, which caused a blast of interest from youth. The trend got so popular that stores like Target were limiting the number of packs one could buy. Still, patrons were reporting on social media the barren shelves where once packs of cards had lay. Katz believes that people being stuck at home was a major contribution to the resurgence.

“What happened [during COVID] was that people were home with not much to do,” Katz continued. “They had a lot of free time, and so they started exploring their attics and basements and were finding their old cards. Funny enough, this caused people to come back to their old hobbies, and decide to start collecting again. Now adults, they wanted to get that Lebron James card they couldn’t as a child, and were willing to spend the money to get it. These cards are out there, and it’s become a chase to get them.”

Outside of the general enjoyment of collecting them, sports cards have also become a surprising asset for collectors, comparable to fine art. Katz sees this as an obvious progression.

“People love to chase the holy grail of art, and sports memorabilia has reached that state,” Katz continued. “I’ve heard stories of people selling their cards to pay their kids tuition. There’s a whole world that revolves around grading and authentication, stuff the average person who collects cards wouldn’t believe. But it exists and it’s taken very seriously by those involved in it. So if you have cards in your attic, I’d highly recommend digging them out and getting them appraised. Who knows, you might have something very valuable.”

As for his store, Katz is eagerly looking forward to the days ahead. He welcomes all to come visit and check out the different things Bergen County Sports Cards offers. In the future he promises more meet and greets and autographing.

“The current plan is to have our grand opening celebration on Wednesday night, June 15, featuring NBA Hall of Fame great Rick Barry,” Katz added. “Rick is a good friend and was recently named one of the top 75 NBA players of all time. We’re very excited to have him take pictures and sign autographs with the community. And on the subject of community, the store plans to actively build relationships with the Tomorrows Children’s Fund, local police and fire departments, and our children’s teachers who deserve every ounce of recognition we can give them.”

Katz is also seeking investors to build a boutique sports collectables equity fund. If you are interested in learning more, you can contact Katz at [email protected]

Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com.

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