If you are looking for a Father's Day present - and your dad is a sports nut - you may want to check out JP's Sports Collectibles in North Fort Myers. A lot of sports enthusiasts do, despite a quiet economy.
In a seemingly small storefront, over 250,000 different sports items are in stock, including NFL jerseys, hundreds of autographed items and licensed NASCAR diecast cars, trading cards, hats, Yugioh, World of Warcraft, NASCAR mini hoods and more.
Owner John "J.P." Peery started his business of collectibles and sports memorabilia in 1994.
"I always collected through the years," he said. "It was over 15 years ago; my wife wanted room in the closet and I had sports stuff I collected over the years and she wanted it out of there. I said fine, I'll go to the flea market."
He had single sports cards, and had friends in the business and just went from there.
He remembers his first day of starting his business.
"I started on a Friday, it was my only day off, I worked in the grocery business," he recalled.
Things then really took off, and he built up his stock by going to NASCAR races, often being invited into the pit area.
"Those were the old days, back in the' 90s with Dale Earnhardt, and his son Dale Jr, and [Jeff] Gordon - I met them all," he said. "I went to the pit area and still do."
Peery makes sure the store has plenty in stock.
"We carry over 100,000 select baseball cards in stock at all times. We do the main guys, Derek Jeter is always there, and others," he explained.
The roots of the sports card collections go back to the beginning days of JP's Sports, with new packs from Donruss, Fleer, Playoff, Upperdeck and Topps, he said.
Colleges items are always big items, he noted.
"We carry one of the largest selection of colleges," he said.
Concerning his background, Peery was born in Virginia but lived in LaBelle, Fla., most of his life. He's a Cape Coral resident now, starting an actual store in 1999 to make his love of collectibles a full-time business, along with another passion.
"I travel with the Firecats," he said of the local arena football league team. "It's exciting about being close in the playoffs this year."
He does the equipment for the team, and helps with the offense and defensive lines.
The playoffs - no matter which sport (Major League Baseball, NFL, NHL) - are always busy times for his shop, he said.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers won the 2009 Super Bowl, he had items in the next day marking the occasion.
"We carry an average of 250 different items for each NFL Team," he said.
Besides regular sports items, he carries everything for the family to do with sports.
"We also have dog sweaters or leads, baby bibs and pacifiers," he said. "We also have a full line of ladies' gear here - the Milano In Touch line of ladies sportswear."
Customers aren't all just from the Southwest Florida area, he said. He also does a lot of work on-line.
"We get e-mails from all over the world, France and Great Britain," he said. "What's funny is we had a customer about a month ago from the UK, and just stopped to visit and say 'Hi.' It was nice to meet him in person. He ended up buying jerseys we need to ship there now."
Perry's worked with many charitable events, including a recent fund -raiser with ESPN and the Earnest Graham Foundation.
He said his favorite NASCAR driver is Gordon, and his favorite football teams are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins.
The North Fort Myers business is a family affair.
"My wife Jolean came aboard about three years ago," he said.
In his time off, Peery likes spending time off with his family, including his two sons.
And of course, there are the "pit stops."
JP's Sports Collectibles is located at 15201 N. Cleveland Ave., in the Merchants Crossing plaza. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.