Wichita-based Oliver’s Sports has come a long way since it opened in a 250 square-foot space in 1996.
Twenty-six years — and several moves and expansions — later, the sports memorabilia and card business is onto its next chapter.
Vince Oliver, owner of the business alongside his wife Leanne, recently purchased the former Companion Animal Hospital at 10555 W. Maple and is renovating the space in preparation for a Sept. 14 opening.
“We have grown and grown and grown,” said Oliver, who has around 50,000 autographed items in stock, including some non-sports items.
Drive by the new location just west of the Maple and Maize Road intersection and a person might see Oliver hauling items himself to a large dumpster.
Oliver, who has not hired a lead general contractor, said several customers have helped him with pieces of the construction and remodeling process — not a small effort considering the shift in businesses using the building.
“We’ve got some really good collectors and some really good customers,” said Oliver, who also works part-time for his father’s business, Oliver’s Heating & Cooling. “They’ve really stepped up.”
Oliver plans to use around 2,800 square feet of the 4,509 square-foot building and rent out the rest. He will have 2,200 square feet of floor space in the new location, which is a bit less than the floor space at his current store.
While Oliver has been leading the renovation at the new location, the current store at 2491 S. Seneca remains open, as his wife works there full-time.
It will remain open through Sept. 10. The location will then close and all items will move to the new store in advance of the Sept. 14 opening
On Sept. 17, Oliver’s Sports will host a grand opening that will feature actor Tom Guiry, whose career includes a starring role as Scotty Smalls in 1993’s “The Sandlot,” signing autographs for $30.
Oliver said included in that price is a photo opportunity with Guiry and a complimentary 8-by-10 photo.
In the past, Oliver said attendance for autograph events has been disappointing — but he’s optimistic that will begin to shift.
“I think being on the west side we’re going to see a pretty big difference in support,” he said.
Johnathan Weigand, director of strategic initiatives at J.P. Weigand & Sons who represented Oliver on the deal for the space, agreed.
“I think it’s going to be a great landing spot for him,” Weigand said. “He’ll be able to take the business to the next level.”
Don Piros of Landmark Commercial Real Estate represented the seller.
Oliver, who worked as a card show dealer for the first time in the mid-80s at age 7, said he continues to have a passion for quality and helping customers find the autograph or card they need.
The business specializes in certified autographed memorabilia, and Oliver’s Sports has received national recognition, including being featured in Beckett, a national trade publication.
As his business now has the potential to grab more customers in a new neighborhood, Oliver said he is looking to hire another part-time or full-time employee.
He said he also wants to knock down a misconception about autograph affordability.
“I want people to understand with autograph collecting — you don’t have to be rich to do it,” said Oliver, who said he has autographed items as low as $10-$20 and up to $15,000-$20,000.
As for Companion Animal Hospital, according to a sign in front of the former Maple location and its website, it has relocated to its other location at 4590 N. Maize.