TRAVERSE CITY — Some kids run a lemonade stand in front of their house.
Aaron Bertram as a teenager used to set up a sports card store on a table in his driveway. Even though he doesn't remember making a sale, the dream of running his own business never left.
Dream is set to become a reality when he plans a Friday, Feb. 16 soft opening of The Vault Sports Cards and Collectibles in the Hillside Plaza. Bertram plans a grand opening on Saturday, Feb. 24.
Bertram left his 17-year position at Northpointe Motors to open the store at 1325 W. South Airport Rd., along with business partner Brian Forsman, of Massachusetts.
"This is just something I've wanted to do since I was a kid," Bertram said. "If I wasn't going to do it now, I was never going to do it. I'm 35 and if I waited any longer, I would have just stayed where I was at."
Bertram credits two people with playing a big role in making the leap from finance director to business owner.
Bertram's wife, Sarah, launched a LuLaRoe business from her home just over a year ago. Its success allowed him to chase his dream.
"She was able to build up a big enough business that I was able to leave my job, my six-day-a-week job," he said. "Without her doing that, this wouldn't be possible."
The opportunity to spend more time with their 4-year-old son, Lincoln, was another factor. Aaron said he would come home from work at his previous position and "put him to bed an hour later."
The youngest Bertram, Aaron said, will run the store's Funko Pop! sports figures and learn a little bit about business right along with his father.
"It's an awesome spot to be as a dad to do that with him," Aaron said.
The four major sports — baseball, football, basketball and hockey — will dominate the sports cards and collectibles at The Vault. There will be a few signed celebrity items and entertainment cards as well as a spot in the back of the store for weekly Magic the Gathering tournaments in the future.
But sports definitely will dominate the nearly 1,400-square-foot space. There is an Internet shipping-and-receiving station next to the main desk, as well as three desks that will serve as "break stations" for people to open boxes of cards. There's a television and a pair of comfy chairs in the front of the store.
"I think a lot of people that are in this hobby when they were younger and are getting back into it," Bertram said. "Knowing that there is a place where they can go and come hang out, be comfortable with."
Bertram and Forsman have been buying and selling sports cards and collectibles online for about 15 months. That will continue on Facebook, eBay and other online avenues as well as at www.thevaultcards.com after it launches.
Online connectivity is one of the reasons that Bertram believes Traverse City can support two sports card and collectibles stores. Nothing But Sports has been on East Eighth Street for nearly 20 years and has been selling cards in the area even longer.
"With the way we market, we're not just a Traverse City business; we're an Earth business," Bertram said. "We literally can ship anywhere and do ship anywhere. We have customers and friends all over the globe. It's not like we're limited to the people that walk in that door, which is key."
The Vault also will sell cards on consignment for collectors "as close to full market value as we can" as well as competing with online prices, Bertram said.
The Vault will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Two Fridays a month, the store will stay open late "breaking boxes" in what Bertram calls Vault After Dark.