The Business: MVP Sports, a store that sells sports memorabilia and collectibles and does custom framing. It is located at 2580 S. Decatur Blvd. in the Sahara Pavilion South shopping center.
The Players: Bill and Joyce Cheverino, a couple who grew up in Las Vegas and worked in the resort industry before deciding to start their own business.
The Background: Joyce Cheverino worked for 10 years at the Silver Slipper in a variety of positions before deciding in 1985 to stay home to take care of her new son, Brian. Meanwhile, her husband, Bill, continued to work at Caesars Palace where he became a floor supervisor in the casino. By the time Brian was seven, Joyce decided it was time to go back to work. “You don’t want to work for somebody else. Why don’t you start your own business?” she recalls her husband telling her. Joyce followed her husband’s advice and with his help, founded MVP Sports. Her husband, who came into contact with many top athletes through his job at Caesars, believed sports memorabilia would be a profitable business. Joyce, who had always loved sports, agreed and specialized in selling engraved plaques with pictures of sports stars. Initially, Joyce sold her merchandise from a cart in the Meadows Mall. The business prospered and she moved into a mall store about a year later. She moved to other locations in the mall during the next six years.
The Challenge: Joyce found there were limitations to working in a mall store. The shop developed a strong customer base, but it was not the right location for the business. MVP diversified by selling more kinds of memorabilia, but Joyce believed the store could make more money by offering custom framing services. This was not allowed in the contract MVP had with the mall because another operation had exclusive rights to framing. Also, the store was required to be open the same hours the mall was open. This meant MVP had to operate until 9 p.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. on weekends. Sales were weak in the evening hours and it was difficult to staff the store for 15-hour days. “If we
had any sales between 6 and 9 at night, it was a miracle,” Joyce said. She tried to solve the staffing problem by operating the store by herself until the mall closed. “I just got burned out,” she said. “People paint a rosy picture of being in a mall, but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome.”
The Solution: The Cheverinos shopped around for another location and found the Sahara Pavilion South. MVP Sports opened a store in the pavilion in March 1999. The area has a lot of retail activity, but Joyce again found there were challenges to overcome. The phones wouldn’t work for the first two weeks because of technical problems, which gave customers the impression that MVP was out of business. Management discontinued security from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the center. Joyce was not happy with the outdoor signage. The shop had an overhead sign, but did not have a “blade sign” at the entrance to the store to make it easier for potential customers roaming the center to see where the shop was located. Also, the center’s nearby sister facility, Sahara Pavilion North, tends to get more promotion because it has more stores.
Joyce refused to be discouraged. “You have to have faith,” she said, a philosophy any small business owner needs to succeed. She rebuilt her customer base by giving her customers “the personal touch.” She said this has been more important than an advertising campaign in making a store a success. One of the problems in the sports memorabilia industry is authenticity. Many items are sold with bogus sports signatures. MVP only sells items that have been certified by companies that have affiliations with the athletes. “Your reputation is important in any business,” she said. She found a way to promote the mall by recommending its other shops to customers, and she says other store owners are doing the same for MVP. The company has been active in supporting charities. Joyce, whose husband has retired from Caesars due to multiple sclerosis, believes charity work should be emphasized in the business community.
MVP was able to diversify into framing, although it cannot make framing its main business activity because another store in the center has the exclusive. The store frames art, photos, posters and memorabilia for customers, and does custom framing for corporate customers. It has framed photos for car dealerships, special events at the Thomas and Mack Center and golf tournaments.
Joyce realizes that many businesses fail because they are unable to overcome the obstacles in their path. “You’ve got to be positive. You have to be upbeat. You can’t be negative, no matter what is thrown at you,” she emphasized. She has one other piece of advice for a store owner moving into a mall or shopping center. “Read the fine print in the contract.”