An Upper Arlington business that's been a fixture for 21 years will close its doors next month as the couple who nurtured it step into the next phase of their lives.
Chuck and Barb Zweiback -- who have sold everything from baseball cards to Beanie Babies at Chuck and Barb's Baseball Cards in Upper Arlington's Tremont Center -- will retire March 15.
"We've really enjoyed it, but we just think it's time to pursue other interests," said Barb Zweiback, a Clintonville native.
Included on the itinerary are plans to see more of the world, but not before giving shoppers, many of whom have patronized the store since its beginnings, opportunities to buy up the remaining merchandise and support the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
With the help of G.A. Wright, a company that specializes in professional store-closing sales, Chuck and Barb's Baseball Cards is collecting non-perishable items for the food bank. Donations will support people in need and earn customers points for send-off prizes, such as a flat-screen television, a microwave and vacuum cleaner.
Contest points also can be accumulated through store purchases. Items have been discounted from 40 percent to 75 percent, Chuck Zweiback said.
"We've had a significant amount of inventory sold since we announced our retirement sale Jan. 9, but we still have a significant amount of inventory," he said. "It all has to go."
The Zweibacks opened their 1,500-square-foot store in 1993, about 15 years after marrying and after several years of working the weekend and special-event card show circuit.
At the time, baseball card collections were hot, but the wave of popularity subsided soon after the couple opened their store. In part, Chuck said, that was because of the overproduction of cards and also due to fans' bitterness over the 1994 Major League Baseball strike that wiped out the World Series.
While other mom-and-pop shops closed their doors, Chuck and Barb endured by listening to their customers.
They embraced emerging interests in autographed memorabilia and football, basketball and hockey cards, as well as collection crazes for Pokemon and Beanie Baby products.
Most importantly, the couple said, they developed personal relationships with their customers, who keep coming back.
"Probably the main thing we're going to miss is the people," Barb said. "We've just had a number of people, adults, come in and say comments like, 'I used to come in here when I was 8 years old.' "
Chuck added that the shop now has second-generation customers.
"Numerous folks have come in and said, 'We came in when we were 12,' and now they're bringing in their children," he said. "There've been parents that came in and said, 'Thank you.'
Last week, Steve Thompson of Zanesfield was among shoppers at the store. He said he's come to Chuck and Barb's Baseball Cards for about three years, mostly in search of Pete Rose and Johnny Bench cards.
"Once they go out, I don't know of another shop," Thompson said. "There used to be card shops everywhere. The only other shops like this I've seen are in downtown Cooperstown (N.Y.), by the Baseball Hall of Fame."
Mike Aldrink of Powell was greeted by Barb when he stopped in, who sought an update on his wife and the new baby on the way.
"My daughters, who are normally with me, love Barb's Beanie Babies, and I love the baseball cards," Aldrink said. "Between the two of them, they got us hooked.
"We've been coming about three years about once a week. There's something about getting to know Chuck and Barb. You build a relationship with them. They've been very good people."
In addition to those bonds, the couple said highlights of their run have been provided by Ohio State University athletes, particularly football and basketball players, who frequently signed autographs at the store.
"Those guys have been wonderful," Chuck said.
They also had opinions on the best items they've sold at the shop.
For Barb, it was an autographed Mickey Mantle jersey.
Chuck, however, gave the nod to a 1933 Play Ball set that featured four Babe Ruth baseball cards. He purchased it from an elderly woman who had collected cards throughout her life, and he sold the set for "around $7,500," he said.
Though they have mixed emotions, the couple said two decades is a good run and it's the right time to step away.
"We did the Ohio State Fair for 20 years and we did the shop for almost 21," Barb said. "This has kind of been our baby, but we're kind of looking forward to the next phase of our lives."
Chuck and Barb's Baseball Cards, 2158 Tremont Center, Upper Arlington, will remain open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays through March 15.