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Collectors and Community at Rain Delay 

Owner Benjamin Funke at Rain Delay in Arcata.


Owner Benjamin Funke at Rain Delay in Arcata.

If you had asked me a few years ago what kind of new store I would love to see open in Arcata, my answer would not have been a sports memorabilia and collector's store. But then my son found baseball and my worldview changed. I was as giddy as he was when we walked into the doors of Rain Delay for the store's soft opening a few weeks ago. Located at 1041 F St., in the same building as Humboldt Jiu Jitsu, the store is small but mighty, chock full of sports trading cards, storage supplies and vintage memorabilia. The best part about it, though, is owner Benjamin Funke's love of the game.

An avid baseball card collector since childhood, Funke is an artist and educator at Cal Poly Humboldt. He is also the founder of REBOUND, a nonprofit community organization that brings students and artists together to create murals on basketball courts and buildings all over Humboldt. His view of hobby cards as art objects is both refreshing and inspiring, and his artistic eye is also sharp enough to critique and grade hobby cards quickly and accurately. But perhaps my favorite thing about Funke is his passion for community building, which was one of the driving forces behind the opening of Rain Delay (in addition to his passion for sports and sports collecting, of course).

"People are looking for community in this [sports] market. They might have gotten introduced to it in the last few years, during COVID, and they were only able to do stuff online, and that's really impersonal," said Funke. "I think that people don't really know how to interact with this interest. People need to feel welcome coming in to talk about their hobby, the players that they love. The vision behind Rain Delay is community — bringing people together."

Community means everything to me. So, when I say Funke is going to bring us all together through Rain Delay even if we don't necessarily love sports cards, you should believe it. I first met Funke about a year ago while writing a story about an art exhibit he and his wife, Ink People marketing director and writer/critic Gabrielle Gopinath (also a Journal contributor) curated in Eureka. My son reluctantly came with me to interview them, clutching his binder of baseball cards. Funke immediately spotted the binder and asked if it was full of gaming cards. When he heard the response, "No, baseball cards," his eyes lit up.

Funke is no stranger to what card collecting can mean for a child. "When I was about 12, two of my friends and myself pooled all our money together and bought a big collection of baseball cards," he said. "All of the sudden we had like 600,000 cards. And we had insane, unbelievable stuff. Next thing, we were setting up at the card show. Just three 12-year-olds at a table selling cards." Although he took a break during his college years, he reconnected with sports memorabilia as an adult and his hobby/business has continued to grow from there.

While we chatted art that first meeting, Funke and my boy spent most of the time talking baseball. Funke proudly showed him photos of top-notch cards from his own collection; my son proudly showed him dog-eared cards he cherishes. Through conversation, we learned that we live in the same neighborhood. A few days later, Funke showed up at my house with Aaron Judge baseball cards, the kid's hero at the time. And, by the time we attended Rain Delay's store opening, Funke's sidekick Jason Testa already knew my son's favorite players and had set aside cards he might be interested in.

For a 9-year-old baseball-loving boy, this is everything. He was seen. He was heard. And his passion is shared. He had found his community center.

"The only interaction I'd really had with card collecting was as a kid, and then at flea markets and stuff," said Funke. "I started going into the city and whatnot to big shows. And I realized, 'Oh my god, this industry is a thing.' It's massive. I began going on eBay and learning how to really trade and sell. I've been doing it online now for about 10 years and it has been so much fun. The only thing missing has been bringing enthusiasts together and having a place for new people to learn about collecting, and we can do that now."

Visiting Rain Delay has already become a familiar part of my routine. Every time we go in, Funke, Testa or both (if they are there together) have lengthy conversations with us about baseball players, how to determine the value of a card, and more. They cheer when the kid gets a good card in a new pack, they share stories of their own collections, and they impart knowledge. Nearly every time, there is also at least one other adult customer buying cards or trading/selling some of their collection, and every person is full of joy and stories about their basketball, baseball or football card hobby.

Rain Delay, which is open Tuesday through Sunday, is already hosting monthly trade nights. Funke hopes to plan activities with the Humboldt Crabs Baseball team, as well as other sports-related events down the road.

"So far, I think we've been pretty successful at the community thing," said Funke. "People come in with their memorabilia or looking for something, and they just sit down and talk, hang out with their packs of cards. They watch the game on TV here. Everyone who is coming in is like, 'Wow, we need this.' And we really do."

Tamar Burris (she/her) is a freelance education writer and relationship coach. Her book for children of divorce A New Special Friend is available through her website

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