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Phoenix teams a tough sell for sports memorabilia store

Bob McClay/KTAR

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Suns are having a losing season. The NHL lockout is keeping the Phoenix Coyotes off the ice, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are coming off a .500 season.

Valley sports teams are having a tough time, and so are sports memorabilia stores that are trying to sell their stock.

The cash register is ringing at the Free Agent Sports Store in Paradise Valley Mall. Memorabilia from the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are hot sellers, but owner Jeff Thalblum said items of the local teams are "collecting dust right now."

Thalblum said sales of local teams' goods are off 65 percent this holiday season. It didn't start out that way.

When the Cardinals started the season 4-0, their merchandise was flying off of the shelves. Since then, they've only sold one Beanie Wells autographed picture. The other teams aren't doing any better.

"The Diamondbacks sold a few things with their 81-81 record," said Thalblum. "Nobody is buying anything involving the Phoenix Coyotes, and fans can't even name anyone who plays for the Phoenix Suns."

About the only thing that's getting any reaction from customers is an autographed picture of Steve Nash in a Suns uniform that's in the front window.

"People look at it, and I've actually seen some people cry," Thalblum said. "I've actually seen a few tears. People are like ‘If we only had him, could things be just a little bit different?' "

Nash signed with the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason.

Thalblum is trying to keep a positive outlook. He said his sales will improve, just as soon as Valley sports teams do.

About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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