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October 31. 2013 10:06PM

Collector's Heaven gets back in business for Red Sox title


Leonard Murphy of Manchester checks his watch as he waits for Collector's Heaven to open on Elm Street in Manchester on Thursday. Murphy was waiting to buy and sell Boston Red Sox memorabilia following Wednesday night's World Series win. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — It would seem to take a lot for someone who recently suffered a heart attack to suspend efforts to sell the family retail store and instead plunge head-long into pacing the aisles to assist customers, while making arrangements with vendors for rush deliveries.

For Mike and Caren Grady, an unexpected World Series championship for the Boston Red Sox was enough.

The Gradys put their store, Collector's Heaven, and its building at Elm and Granite streets up for sale earlier this year.

But as the Red Sox march to a world title gained momentum, they sensed the team had reclaimed its place in the hearts of New Englanders.

Winning two straight World Series games in St. Louis convinced them to make a decision.

The "for sale" signs in the window came down earlier this week.

"We ripped the signs off the windows," Mike Grady said. "It's not for sale; it's fun."

The morning after watching the Red Sox win the team's third world title in 10 years, the Gradys were greeting customers, arranging displays and getting ready to accept shipments of freshly minted merchandise that will mean shelves filled with hats, shirts and an assortment of other championship-emblem-festooned merchandise to a region that is once again baseball-crazed.

Three weeks ago, Grady suffered a heart attack while working in the store. Cardiac stents were installed in his heart to help the blood flow, and he faced a period of cardiac rehabilitation at Catholic Medical Center.

But he was soon back walking the aisles as fan interest in the Red Sox hit its World Series crescendo.

Grady said he made a deal with his cardiac rehabilitation therapists.

"I convinced CMC that my rehab can be right here, walking around and working with the customers," Grady said. "This is my rehab, getting me back on my feet with a smile on my face."

The sales boom driven by the Red Sox championship certainly makes it easier to put off turning the business over to a new owner. But each transaction is as much about the sharing of a bond between fans as it is the exchange of merchandise for cash.

Hours after the final out in Wednesday's Game 6, an excited Grady talked of the turnaround in fan attitude toward the team and the renewed sense of interest among potential customers.

Conventional wisdom in the souvenir industry suggests that a third world title in a short period of time brings diminishing returns since the primary market includes fans whose enthusiasm for championships may have been satiated.

But as the 2013 Red Sox completed a transition from a collection of seemingly indifferent anti-heroes to a cast of bearded icons, enthusiasm returned.

"This is very big because it was so unexpected," Grady said.

Deliveries of World Series merchandise will continue for a few weeks as new items are manufactured. Organized baseball keeps a tight reign on how manufacturers produce and release World Series items in order to prevent premature release of items celebrating champions that are not to be.

Customers choices are heavily oriented toward apparel in the first hours of a championship reign. On the field, players don T-shirts and hats during the on-field celebration, and fans rush to buy similar items to proclaim their own pride and allegiance.

But the Gradys said while interest in clothing items can be expected to remain strong, it soon broadens to include durable items — plates, artwork, replicas of trophies and other objects through which a fleeting moment of victory is transformed into a cherished relic.

"People like to buy things that they can keep and look at and bring back the memory," Caren Grady said. "People are over the moon about this team."

billsmith@unionleader.com


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