There's something altogether uplifting about working in a trophy store, according to someone who has done so for 35 years.
"I only see the winners," Gary Hartman, vice president of Hartman Corp., said last week. "I don't see too many losers on the trophy side."
Once a four-location operation, Hartman Corp. is now down to a single, very busy store at 3216 Morse Road, in Blendon Township, just across the Columbus corporate limit.
The company, now in its 45th year, was founded by Larry E. Hartman, Gary Hartman's father. The son came on board while in his teens, and he's been there ever since.
"I just liked the business," Hartman said. "I appreciated my dad. It's been kind of cool doing trophies for people when they were kids and they're now athletic directors at universities and heads of corporations ordering trophies."
Although trophies "are the mainstay of the business," according to Hartman, his father was an avid collector of sports memorabilia and sports cards dating back to the 1950s, so the corporation actually consists of Hartman's Trophies and Awards Shop and Hartman's Sports Card Shop, in the same building.
One whole wall of the card shop is lined with more than 3.5 million sports cards, arranged in alphabetical order and by the company that produced them, better enabling collectors to fill their sets, Hartman said.
"My parents have been sorting those things since the '50s," he added.
All of that, and more, nearly came tumbling down on Hartman and his girlfriend of three years, Luella Bean, when a car crashed through the trophy showroom March 12, seriously injuring both.
"I don't want any more scars on my body," Bean told members of the Northland Community Council development committee in late May, expressing concern about the driveway for a Family Dollar store proposed for the former used car lot next door.
Although he nearly lost his life in he crash and his girlfriend was badly hurt, Hartman today can joke that he's just glad the car didn't smash into the wall with the millions of sports cards; it would have taken forever to sort them all over again.
"I survived it," Hartman said last week. "I lived through it, and now I've got a new perspective and a new shop. We just renewed ourselves and reinvented ourselves again."
Generally, when people think of trophies, the first things that come to mind are bowling tournaments and youth sports, and rightfully so, according to Hartman.
"Bowling built this place," he said. "I'll give it credit for that."
But there's a whole other side to the trophy business involving corporations that present plaques and awards - some of them very expensive items made of crystal and glass - at corporate banquets and other functions.
"Recognition really works," Hartman said. "You give somebody money, that money gets spent and they don't have anything to show for it. You give someone a trophy and they might have it for the rest of their lives."
One client who puts on a car show presents a trophy that's 15 feet tall to the winner of the top honor at the show, Hartman said. Car show officials wait until the last minute to inform the dismayed recipient that the thing comes apart for transporting purposes.
The cheapest trophies are small figurines on bases with an engraved plate. Those cost $7.
At the other end of the scale, the sky is pretty much the limit, according to Hartman, with silver cups and Waterford crystal and brass items that can cost thousands.
After three and a half decades, Hartman said he's far from tired of going to work.
"Every day is different, every project is different. It's kind of an exciting job."
Plus, he deals mostly with winners.