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At Melrose Sports Cards, the Hobby Triumphs Through a Pandemic

Owner Adeel Shams takes Boardroom behind the scenes of the LA trading card shop that became a success story in the COVID era.

First-generation American and Melrose Sports Cards owner Adeel Shams can vividly recall the years spent living without.

His parents having moved to the US in the 1980s with next to nothing to their name, Adeel and his two brothers were forced to face some lean years; the family’s home even burned down when Adeel was just four years old. But it was during those difficult times that Shams began to develop his entrepreneurial instincts, watching his father work his way from a taxi cab driver to a real estate success story.

As he told Boardroom, it was his father’s passion that inspired him to build something of his own:

Adeel launched the first iteration of CoolKicks – the now-iconic shoe store nestled on historic Melrose Avenue amongst heavyweights such as Reebok, Puma, and Adidas – right on his college campus in Richmond, Virginia. Two years later, with two Virginia shops now operational, Adeel and two of his closest friends decided to take the biggest risk of their young lives and move across country to Los Angeles to open a flagship location.

The next few years would be marked by rapid retail growth, a never-ending influx of celebrity sightings, and a social media strategy that would see the brand grow a YouTube and Instagram following of more than 1.5 million fans. 

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It hasn’t been all been gravy for the 29-year-old entrepreneur. The largest and most prestigious of his shops – CoolKicks on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica – was forced to close after losing millions of dollars worth of inventory to looting in 2020. But once again, from adversity came growth, with Shams opening Melrose Sports Cards, a sleek and modern trading cards and collectibles store located directly across the street from the original LA CoolKicks store. 

With family and friends questioning the wisdom of opening a brick-and-mortar shop in the midst of a global pandemic, Shams surged ahead. To get Melrose Sports Cards up and running last summer, he focused all his energy on building it up to be the COVID-era success story it is today.

Between hobby personalities, YouTube influencers, and a constant stream of professional athletes, Melrose Sports Cards has become one of the premiere spots for card collectors in Southern California. And while Shams is adamant that young entrepreneurs in the trading card world should eliminate the frivolous spending of short-term gains and instead reinvest in the business while protecting themselves from market downturns, he is incredibly bullish on the market as a whole over the next 12-24 months.

In fact, Shams believes that the tremendous growth the sports card space has seen over the past year is just the beginning, and that the upcoming months and years will be extremely lucrative for those who put in the work.

Having witnessed what Adeel has already accomplished at such a young age, it’s tough to doubt him.