PHELPS — One of Eric Biletzky’s fondest boyhood memories was going to Conklin’s corner store in Geneva, which was well known for its selection of sports cards and memorabilia.
“I was 8. My dad took me there and I bought my first pack of baseball cards,” Biletzky recalled. “I was hooked. There are not many places like that around anymore.”
Now the owner of Bear & Vine, a boutique and antiques shop at 256 Main St. in Phelps, Biletzky and his wife, Kiana, have added sports memorabilia to their inventory. They started the business — it’s across from the Blue Ribbon restaurant — in November with a soft opening. They’re having a grand re-opening Saturday and Sunday.
The event will include prizes, discounts and refreshments, including $1 hot dogs that will be grilled in the parking lot. Proceeds from the food sales will go to the Phelps Community Food Cupboard; the Biletzkys will take donations for the cupboard until June 17.
Eric Biletzky, who grew up in Phelps, is a 1991 Midlakes graduate. He played baseball at the school and also for a year at St. John Fisher.
His wife, who grew up in Bath, is a 1994 graduate of Mount Morris High School. They met while working for Constellation Brands and got married after relocating to the West Coast, where Kiana continued working for Constellation Brands while Eric worked in finance for other wine companies.
They returned to Phelps due to family reasons, and Eric was vice president of finance for some area companies while Kiana continued working for Constellation Brands. They bought the business, formerly Jim’s Hidden Treasures, last year, as well as the inventory.
“It was something different to do. It was really Eric’s passion, being around sports and sports memorabilia,” Kiana said. “He’s collected all his life. We were kind of looking for an opportunity and found this place. We wanted to do something in Phelps.”
While Eric wants to grow the sports cards and memorabilia side, there are plenty of items running the gamut of antiques, home decor, crafts, jewelry, gifts and books. Some feature local history, while others are slices of Americana from across the country.
The Biletzkys did a makeover of the shop’s interior and have enjoyed meeting customers since the soft opening. The store was only open on weekends for several months, but will be open on some weekdays as well with Eric moving to the business full time.
“We will be open Thursday through Monday, but I will usually be at the store on the other days getting things in order,” Eric said. “If I’m here, we are open and people can stop in. I will have the TV on, maybe for a baseball game, and I enjoy just talking to people who come in.”