BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — When Midwesterners hear any mention of “The Game,” they know what game is being referenced. It’s one of the biggest rivalries in sports. It’s the border battle.
For Mark and Chris Mason, the Ohio State-Michigan football game is an integral part of their business.
At 1412 S. Reynolds Rd. stands Mason’s Billiards & Barstools and the Buckeye & Wolverine Shop, which provides home recreation accessories and sports paraphernalia for Michigan and Ohio State fans.
The Buckeye & Wolverine Shop had been a staple in Northwest Ohio for many decades, and when the original store closed down more than a decade ago, the Mason brothers knew they needed to find a home for the beloved shop under their care.
“Mason’s Billiards & Barstools was started in 1988 and was called Breaking Point Billiards at the time. In ’96, it became Mason’s Billiards & Barstools. That was all about selling things for people’s rec rooms at home. We were able to outfit whole basements between the different games and bars and stools. We grew each year from the time we started,” Mark said.
The housing crisis in 2008 changed what their customer base was buying and who they were serving, so acquiring the Buckeye & Wolverine Shop allowed Mark and Chris to expand on the home recreation customer base they were already serving.
By the 2010 football season, the store had a large space dedicated to Buckeye and Wolverine gear.
“The combination of having the Buckeye and Wolverine stuff plus what we had from pool table sales and things, we were able to keep the doors open,” Mark said. “We had a slow climb from there to get out from under the bad problems everybody was suffering from and these last few years, it’s grown stronger. The home rec part has picked up and the Buckeye & Wolverine Shop hung in there because the fans are solid.”
Supply chain issues and other effects of the pandemic were still recently impacting the business, but this year, Mark said the store has more clothing than it has had in recent years.
Unique items the shop hadn’t been able to stock up on, Chris said, are back to lining the shelves this year, just in time for The Game.
“The clothing on both sides is very popular, but auto-related things and blankets and others are popular, too,” Mark said.
One of their customers they see occasionally over the years likes to stop in to buy stickers for his car, but they don’t see him often, as he lives in Germany.
It’s not unusual, the two said, to have people drive long distances to stop in their store for their sports paraphernalia. They know many customers who plan a trip specifically through the area each year to pick up what they need.
More entertaining, though, are the customers’ reactions. Many refuse to step foot on the enemy side of the shop, or they joke around about accidentally touching the wrong items.
“The whole deal in this area is the ‘house divided.’ We have families come in here and they’ll go in opposite directions,” Chris said.
It’s all fun and games, though, quite literally.
“This is all fun stuff here,” Mark said. “It’s all about fun at home with the pool tables or games in the basement or it’s fun because they’re supporting their team. You get people who have fun being here.”
In the back of the store is where customers can find pool tables, shuffleboards, bars and more home recreation supplies.
“We’ve sold more shuffleboards in the last two years than we did in the 10 years before that,” Chris said. “Shuffleboard is a game where any age can play.”
The home recreation area has always been about bringing families together and helping them spend time together at home, and many of these families have continued to emphasize the importance of gathering in their homes.
“The home recreation products, we’re selling to third generations now,” Chris said. “We’re seeing the same families coming over the years. Home recreation has always been a good, solid base for us.”
While shopping for home entertainment goods, families who don’t take a particular stance on the border battle can also pick up Notre Dame or University of Toledo paraphernalia.
“It gives people another option to find stuff. Locally, we have so many Notre Dame fans,” Mark said.
The two don’t, however, expect to see as many sales this week in Notre Dame items or home entertainment as they will in Buckeye and Wolverine gear.
It’s not uncommon to see an uptick in sales on the Thursdays and Fridays before home games each week, but the week of The Game, they expect their customers to come out in large numbers.
“Our busiest week, historically, is this week,” Mark said. “Everybody’s building up to the game itself and of course you have Black Friday. That week is typically our strongest single week.”
To stock up on apparel and other items, the store at 1412 S. Reynolds Rd. is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.
“We’re happy to be here in Maumee. This is our home,” Mark said.