BY JASON STARR
The Taft Corners Shopping Center is the new home of a business with a 30-year track record in Chittenden County and another that is the brainchild of a Franklin County couple commuting daily into Williston.
Main Street Sports Cards
Filled with cases of individually priced sports cards and lined with shelves of late 20th century pro football and baseball memorabilia, Main Street Sports Cards is flush with an inventory that will catch the eye of any sports fan.
Jeff Francis moved the business from its longtime home in Winooski last week, fulfilling a goal he’d had for years to bring the business greater visibility and improved parking. Francis didn’t gain much in the way of square-footage, but he notes he has more cubic-footage — higher ceilings that create more wall space to display autographed photos, jerseys and equipment, such as a Joe Montana-signed 49ers helmet from the 1980s.
The business was founded in 1991. Francis has owned it since 2013. The sign now above the door at Taft Corners is the same one that was recognizable for years to passers-by on Main Street in Winooski.
“The namesake actually holds some value,” Francis said. “People know the store. It’s been around for a long time.”
“My thoughts were always to move to this area,” he continued. “I didn’t get a lot of walk-in traffic in Winooski. I know I will get that here. The parking situation was really rough where I was. I don’t want to talk down Winooski, but this is a better area.”
The sports card and memorabilia business experienced a pandemic boom as homebound folks rediscovered old collections, Francis said. He is also excited about a new generation of collectors discovering the hobby.
“People in my age group are starting to have kids. They were into the ‘80s and ‘90s card boom.
So I’m thinking the new era customers are kids that are getting into the nostalgia of it all,” he said.
Francis buys, sells and trades both in-store and online through eBay.
“You never know what’s going to come through the door. That’s what’s fun about it. I never know what someone is going to bring in,” he said.
Stefanie Beaulieu left a government job in May to pursue a passion for spreading health and wellness, opening Empower Nutrition in the former Amarah’s Chocolate shop.
Empower Nutrition uses products from Herbalife — a 40-year-old California company with a network of local distributors — to make meal-replacement shakes and energizing teas. Beaulieu, who lives with her husband and twin toddlers in the Franklin County town of Sheldon, worked with a mentor in St. Albans at a similar store before opening her own.
“We’re trying to spread our brand, spread our products, help more people in more locations and get them to see what we have to offer,” she said. “We knew we wanted to do something more than the normal 9-5, we wanted to help people and really build relationships with people, and my job wasn’t fulfilling me the way I wanted it to.”
Her husband, Ryan, is an electrician who transformed the space, which had been empty for more than a year.
“There is so much foot traffic here and a lot of other shops here that really bring people in,” Beaulieu said. “And we liked how open the space was so we could come in with our design and do what we wanted to really make it our own unique shop.”
Empower Nutrition is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.