Conrad Brunner figured opening a sports cards shop was a logical move.
“What else is a retired sportswriter going to do to finish out?” Brunner said.
Bruno’s Shoebox, featuring mostly vintage sports cards and sports games, opened at 50 N. Ninth St., Noblesville, on Jan. 9, one day after his 60th birthday.
Brunner left his job covering the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers with 1070 The Fan in August. Brunner came to Indianapolis to write for The Indianapolis News in 1988.
The News merged staffs with The Indianapolis Star in 1995. Brunner remained with The Star until 2000 when he joined Pacers.com. In 2011, he joined 1070, writing stories and making radio appearances.
Brunner’s personal memorabilia collection remains in a shoebox at home. He grew up a Washington Redskins and Washington Senators fan. He and his two older brothers had amassed a huge collection growing up.
“We had thousands upon thousands of cards, and my parents threw them out when we moved,” said Brunner, who lives in Lawrence. “So, you have that pain that lingers. I’ve always had an affinity for it, almost always older stuff. I don’t know if I’m trying to recreate the memories or get back what I had. I’ve always had a passion for that and games.”
Jayson Manship, who once worked with the Pacers, owned several businesses in the building where Brunner’s store is located. He offered Brunner a spot a couple of months ago in his game store shop.
“It was a lucky break for me because I have a home base instead of traveling around to go to shows all the time,” Brunner said.
Andy Albert, who owns a sports card store in Indianapolis, is one of two people who motivated Brunner.
“He’s been encouraging,” Brunner said. “He made me feel about the hobby again.”
The other motivator was Brody Stephens, an 8-year-old boy from New Palestine who died in April 2017 of viral complications from his battle with leukemia.
“All through his struggles, he came to the card shows,” Brunner said. “I was impressed this young guy had so much respect for vintage cards. He wanted a Pete Maravich rookie card. He wanted Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Hank Aaron. You don’t see that with young kids. He would show up, and I would have something special for him at a show. When he passed way, I found out that his dream was to open a card shop after he played in the NBA, of course.”
So, Brunner and other sports card show dealers created Brody’s Card Shop for his funeral service. They brought their showcases and got his collection.
“Brody was 8, and he sort of had his whole life planned out,” Brunner said. “I was almost 60 then and didn’t know what I was going to do for the next five to 10 years of my life. I thought, I’m going to do this. At the time, it was more about doing shows, and then this opportunity came up.”
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Brunner earns Hall of Fame nod
In late January, it was announced Conrad Brunner would be inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in April.
Greg Rakestraw, the program director for 107.5 FM and 1070 The Fan during Brunner’s tenure there, said the honor is well deserved.
“If you’re writing a career review as to what truly sets Bruno apart, I think his move to Pacers.com was a true trendsetter,” said Rakestraw, now the operations manager for Network Indiana. “He ushered in the era of legitimate sports journalism on team website. Now, that’s a given on virtually any major pro team’s website. It wasn’t when Bruno first made the move.”
Rakestraw said Brunner made the transition to covering the Pacers and Colts appear easy when he joined 1070 when it really wasn’t.
“He’s as talented of a person as I’ve ever been around, and his work ethic was second to none,” Rakestraw said. “I had to remind him to slow the pace down every once in a while, because he was so connected to providing content on both teams at the same time.”
Brunner said covering the 1993-94 Pacers, who reached the Eastern Conference Finals, was the most compelling experience of his career.
“From figuring out Larry Brown, to watching Reggie Miller emerge as one of the sport’s great clutch players, to marveling at Byron Scott’s leadership and ability to hit the single-biggest shot in franchise history to beat the Magic in Orlando in Game 1 of the playoffs, to seeing the city embrace the team, truly, for the first time since the ABA years, that was the year that made everything afterward possible,” Brunner said.