ELLSWORTH — It all started 10 years ago with a box of baseball cards. A red shoebox that contained a 1992 NBA Hoops Shaquille O’Neal and a 1987 Topps Randall Cunningham, both rookie cards. A gift from father to son.
Flash forward to the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and that box, combined with the resurgence of the collectibles industry, would prompt 17-year-old Brady Kenny to launch his own business. And thus, Jordan’s Snack Bar Collectibles was born.
“I was on eBay and I saw how much stuff like baseball cards were going for, how valuable they could be,” Kenny remembered, “and I thought that there might be an opportunity.”
Kenny began acquiring and selling merchandise online, mainly through Facebook Marketplace, and started to pick up on the ins and outs of the industry quickly. He began to carve out a comfortable niche for himself by catering to hobbyists who may have been priced out of the market by veteran collectors or big-box stores that will sometimes charge rates that are 35 to 50 percent higher than Kenny’s as they seek to capitalize on the trading card boom.
“I wanted to offer an avenue for everyday collectors to be able to enjoy the hobby that we all love and are passionate about,” Kenny explained.
Two months ago, Kenny made a move to expand that avenue by opening a brick-and-mortar location in the facility at Jordan’s Snack Bar. The store is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm while the restaurant remains closed, but Kenny assists people over the phone as well. He says he often opens the store during off hours if someone reaches out. Kenny says he gets about 5-10 people who reach out on closed days. On a good weather day, he sees about 20-30 people in his store.
Once the restaurant reopens for the season, though, Kenny expects his business to quadruple as people stop in while they wait for their food. But the restaurant reopening brings two added challenges. One: Kenny will have to make sure he can sustain his inventory to last the summer (sourcing inventory is always the most challenging part of the job), and two: his father, Scott Kenny, owner of Jordan’s Snack Bar and gifter of the original box of cards, will not want to lose his lead line cook.
Brady says he usually works 50 hours a week at his family’s restaurant, and that the collectibles business usually takes about 40 hours of his time, so doing both would make him an exceptionally busy teenager. Luckily, he is planning to have three employees join his staff who will look after things once he gets them up to speed. And he has his father’s full support.
“There’s a lot of things a 17-year-old could be doing right now, partying, doing drugs, making mischief,” said Scott, “but he’s choosing that path of bettering himself, of being an entrepreneur. I’m a proud father.”
A bit of an enthusiast himself, Scott says he stopped collecting during the “Junk Wax Era” of the ’80s and ’90s. But he says that his passion has been revitalized from engaging in the hobby with his kids.
“We do other outdoor activities, like hunting, and I help coach their teams, but this is another great way to spend time with my kids.”
The collectibles game can be pretty cutthroat at the top, with well-established collectors throwing large sums of money around for big-ticket rare items. But Brady said he’s received only support and encouragement from those already active in the local scene. One collector, who has taken Brady under his wing, offered him a good deal on two items intended to help jumpstart his collection and get him on the road to success: the bumpers from two NASCAR race cars.
One, large and orange with a Tide logo in the middle, comes from the car of local driver Ricky Craven of Newburgh, and shows off his rebrand with the new Tide sponsorship. The other bumper, featuring half an image of the Yellow M&M drowning in a sea of peanuts, comes off a car driven by two-time cup champion Kyle Busch.
Another item from a local sports hero, and one of Brady’s favorites in the collection, is a baseball mitt and a ball signed by former Major Leaguer Carl Willey, who was born right up the road in Cherryfield. Willey made his debut in 1958 for the Milwaukee Braves and had an eight-year career as a starting pitcher before retiring and working as a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies.
It’s not just sports cards and memorabilia that Brady stocks, though. He also has several vintage comic books and Funko Pop! Dolls. Pokémon cards are a hot item as well. And Brady is waiting on a shipment of the latest deck from another Pokémon-style game called MetaZoo.
If you’re interested in something specific and you don’t see it in the store, don’t worry.
“Brady is very quick to rotate his stock,” says Scott. “Usually, three times a week he gets fresh inventory in. And if there’s something you want that he doesn’t have, he’ll source it for you.”
And that’s because Brady wants everyone to be able to share in the excitement that gets people hooked on this hobby in the first place. That feeling of the unknown when you hold a fresh pack of cards in your hand before you tear open the foil wrapping.
Brady’s plans are somewhat like opening a pack of trading cards: varied with a hint of unpredictability. He’d like to expand, but that depends on whether the hobby market stays active. One of his goals for this summer season is to donate a portion of his sales to a veterans charity. And he’ll continue to add to his personal collection, stuff that Brady says “never sees the light of day.”
But a short-term goal for both Brady and his father is to actually find that original box of cards that kicked this whole thing off.
“I’m sure it’s around here somewhere,” said Scott.