Whether you’re looking for a book with handwritten pages by Abraham Lincoln or the hottest sports or Broadway ticket, Hal Wagner can help you out.
For 29 years, Wagner has been in the business of getting customers the collectibles and tickets they want, mostly through his store, Ace Sports & Nationwide Tickets in Oak Park Mall.
Q: What is Ace Sports?
“We are a retail store that is made up of lots of different services — we have tickets, collectibles, autographed merchandise — over 1,000 pieces,” Wagner said. “We have over 20,000 hats and sports apparel covering most of the professional sports.”
Customers can purchase tickets in the store, by telephone or online through Wagner’s website.
“I have always believed that you can never succeed if you have all your eggs in one baskets,” Wagner said. “When you have so many things to offer it makes it easier to succeed.”
Q: How did you get into this business?
Wagner was living in California selling hot tubs when he decided to move to the Kansas City area and purchase a business.
“We started off in a store that was Ace Coin & Stamp in Metcalf South,” said Wagner, who financed the purchase with his own funds.
“I bought it very inexpensively because the business had about bottomed out,” Wagner said. “Slowly but surely I changed the business to attract customers. Coin and stamp collecting was dying, so we shifted to sports. Initially we went into baseball cards, then hats and clothing.”
Wagner said he had little experience in the collectibles and sports markets, but did have an important skill set to bring to his new venture.
“I always was a born salesman and I always loved retail,” Wagner said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re selling. If you are successful at selling, you can sell almost anything.”
Ace Sports was in Metcalf South for 20 years before relocating to Olathe. Wagner later added a retail location in Florida but closed it after a year.
Several years ago Wagner moved to his current location at Oak Park Mall.
Q: How do you acquire products and finance them?
Wagner does all the buying for the store.
“I’m not going to say I am always successful in buying, but mostly I buy things that are timely,” he said. “Right now I purchased a lot of World Series merchandise — T-shirts, hats, Royals autographs.”
Wagner went into the ticket business eight years ago, purely by accident.
“Someone came in to the store and asked if I could help her sell her Chiefs tickets,” Wagner said. “I thought it was illegal and I looked into it and found out we could sell them for her, and that’s when we decided to go into tickets.”
Today, ticket sales are the largest share of Ace’s business, with sporting events making up two-thirds and concerts and theatrical events comprising the remainder of sales.
Wagner acquires his stock by purchasing from season ticketholders as well as others who have bought tickets and want to sell them.
As for the collectible items, Wagner builds his inventory by purchasing through brokers, auctions or individuals.
“We have over 1,000 autographs,” he said. That includes items signed by Babe Ruth, Royals’ players, astronaut Neil Armstrong and even the Abraham Lincoln hand-written book excerpt.
Wagner only purchases items that have been certified as authentic.
Q: A number of companies sell tickets and memorabilia. How do you compete?
Wagner acknowledges there is plenty of competition, especially on the Internet, but he has learned to deal with it.
“I have found that people like dealing with a local owner and someone one who will stand behind his services,” Wagner said.
Q: You have been in business for nearly three decades. Are there still challenges you face?
“Working seven days a week,” Wagner said. “And remaining happy and positive through the lean months when there is not much to sell and you have to go to work.”
Wagner said February through May tends to be the slow period. That allows him time to do things like giving talks to students at the University of Kansas School of Business.
“I tell the kids whether they go into corporate America or run their own business that sometimes corporate America is easier,” Wagner said. “If you run your own business your problems go home with you at night….It is a lot of work.”
In a nutshell
COMPANY: Ace Sports & Nationwide Tickets
ADDRESS: Oak Park Mall, Overland Park
TELEPHONE: (913) 541-8100; 800-223-6024