From its faded red, black, and blue sign to its cases brimming with sports memorabilia and Marvel’s finest, Alex's MVP Cards and Comics is a throwback to a time when the Hulk was only Bruce Banner (not Edward Norton, Eric Bana and Mark Ruffalo) and kids collected baseball cards – not fantasy stats. As one of the few mom-and-pop stores left in the city, Alex’s is a collectors dream, with meticulously labeled boxes of comic books dating back decades, collector’s cards from the biggest sports and an attention to the customer that owner Alex Gregg hopes will keep the more than 25-year-old shop around for at least another quarter century. “I’m not like a big corporation. We really excel in customer service,” says Gregg. “I think that’s what’s really important.”

What originally started as a mail-order business run out of a basement quickly outgrew its space and transformed into a retail storefront to meet demand two years later, and even after more than two decades, sports fans and comic nerds continue to flock to Alex’s in hopes of scoring a rare edition or slice of their youth. “I like the fact that a kid comes, and the kid pulls a great card, his favorite player, and he’s all excited,” says Gregg. “Or the feeling, what I see when a guy my age comes in and he sees an old Brooklyn Dodgers card and he remembers going to see the Dodgers and he feels like a kid again. It’s just a wonderful feeling.”

Sports and comic fans aren’t the only people finding slices of their youth rifling through the store. A number of comic book writers and artists have been known to frequent the store, including John Cassaday and David Royce, who Gregg counts as friends. And those aren’t the only big names found in Alex’s history. Some of the storied wares to pass through Alex’s doors include a boxing glove signed by Cassius Clay, a baseball bat from Derek Jeter’s rookie year (the same year the Yankees won the World Series) and has seen its fair share of celebrities (including Rudy Giuliani, Kevin Klein and Tatum O’Neal – not that we’re name-dropping).

But what keeps people coming back is less the big name items and celebrity sightings, and more the warmth of Gregg and his genuine love of the store and his work. “It’s a feel-good story,” he says. “People feel good when they come in here, and that makes me very happy.” But there’s one thing he won’t part with, no matter how happy it might make a customer. “Everbody’s in the business to make money, but the one thing I hold very dear to me – I have a signed Babe Ruth ball from 1948,” Gregg says. “This is mine. Nobody buys it. This is something that stays with me and perhaps goes to my son.”