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Gresham native opens sports collectors haven

If there's a team or a player you love, 34 Sports can help

You know the sports memorabilia stores that pack in fanatical collectors, who slobber over rare cards and fight for autographed pennants?

Those stores are the exact opposite of the newly opened 34 Sports shop in downtown Gresham.

Owner Scott Blake knows all about hardcore collectors - the former Bank of America IT technician has been selling sports memorabilia on Ebay for a few years, after all. But that wasn't what Blake envisioned when he opened 34 Sports, 80 N.E. Division St., earlier this month.

'A lot of sports shops cater to the collector, but that wasn't what I wanted,' Blake says.

An amiable father of one, Blake would rather cater to young people and sports fans than big-time collectors.

His shop offers a huge assortment of reasonably priced sports memorabilia: vintage and traditional wool pennants, sports cards, pins, figurines and more.

He had been selling such wares on the Internet for a couple years, while coaching his 9-year-old son's Gresham Junior Baseball League teams, but had tired of working alone.

'I'm a people person,' Blake says. 'Working at home was nice, but I missed being around people.'

The shop gives him the best of both worlds - he can do what he loves, hunt for sports treasures online and still meet new people. In the summer, his son, Ryan, can hang out with his dad at the store and further his interest in all things baseball.

'I asked him when he was 7, what he wanted to be and he said 'A pitcher for the New York Yankees,' ' Blake says of his son.

When dad asked if Ryan had a back-up plan, the young boy said yes, he did - if he couldn't be a pitcher for the New York Yankees, he'd settle for shortstop.

Blake is clearly the type of dad who adores his son and encourages him in whatever he tries. His role models in sports are not the hotshots who score on the field and make a mess of their lives off the field, but, rather, players like Nolan Ryan and Walter Payton, who set a good example in their daily lives.

'I'd like to maybe have a quote board in here, something to inspire the young people who come in, to teach them about people like Nolan Ryan and Walter Payton,' Blake says.

Blake grew up in the Gresham area and graduated from Centennial High in 1982. He moved away from the area in the late 80s, but moved back in 2000 with his wife, Maria Blake, and their young son to be closer to family.

When Bank of America merged with MBNA, Blake had a choice: move to Rhode Island or give up his position. He decided to stay in Oregon.

The family sold their home, bought a much smaller one, and financed Blake's new business. Maria went back to school to become a medical assistant.

'We decided to do what we wanted to do, instead of working just for the money,' Blake says.

The new 34 Sports shop opened Friday, June 16, but it's been good for Blake so far.

'When school's in, there are dozens of kids walking past here during lunch time,' he says.

Despite the array of sports memorabilia and televised sports, the atmosphere at 34 Sports is not intimidating for non-sports types, which makes it ideal for a someone who wants to buy a gift for a sports lover but may not have the slightest clue where to begin.

One of Blake's specialties is crafting themed displays for customers.

Give Blake an idea, your favorite team or player, for instance, and he'll devise a collage of memorabilia (pictures, postcards, drawings, autographs, pieces of uniforms, etc.) and then encase the picture in glass.

Blake recently sold one large collage - a mix of Chicago Cubs memorabilia, including two vintage postcards and a large black and white lithograph depicting the history of the team and Wrigley Field - for $200.

The cost depends on what you want. The $200 collage is rather large, 24-by-36 inches, but Blake can make small 8-by-10-inch pictures too.

'It's good for wives who know their husband's favorite team or player, but don't know what to buy them,' Blake says. 'They can just tell me, and I'll search for them and put it all together. It's fun for me too, because I get to do the treasure hunting, but I'm not spending money, I'm earning it!'

If you go

What: 34 Sports

Where: 80 N.E. Division St., Gresham in the shopping center across Division from Gresham High School.

Who: Owner Scott Blake.

When: Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Monday.

Why: Has a good variety of sports memorabilia, including wood pennants, pins, cards, figurines, clothes and more for reasonable prices.

For more information: Call 503-665-3850.