By Cady Kuzmich
CLIFTON PARK — Though he says only comic book and stamp collectors know about his little shop in Clifton Park, Tom Auletta said Azusa Collectibles is doing just fine after decades in the business.
The shop, packed wall to wall with binders full of stamps, postcards and comic books, has its roots in a dollar’s worth of stamps handed to a young boy by his uncle.
“I was 10 or 11 at the time, and my uncle used to give me a dollar each week. In the ’50s and ’60s a dollar was a lot of money. It wasn’t to go into the college fund. He insisted I spend it. One week he gave me a dollar’s worth of stamps. I was hooked,” recalled Auletta, now 71.
Auletta and his wife, Gail, opened the store in the early 1970s while living on Long Island. At the time, Auletta was working as a high school science teacher, teaching biology, psychology, earth science and chemistry. With summers off and three small children to support, the Aulettas decided to get involved in the collectibles business. Eventually, they opened their own shop, which Gail ran while Tom taught.
“I honestly don’t know how we did it,” he said, sitting with his rescue dog Max in the seventh store location, now situated on Ushers Road in Clifton Park.
After retiring, the Aulettas moved upstate and brought their unique collectibles to Round Lake. The couple relocated to the Clifton Park shop about five years ago. Auletta said business has at least doubled and maybe tripled since the most recent move.
The store, tucked away on the second floor of an unassuming building behind a bank, doesn’t typically attract curious folks wandering through the area. Gail Auletta writes a newsletter that is distributed to about 100 clients. Of those 100 people, Auletta said 30 come in on a regular basis.
“We have clients who are more advanced collectors who might spend hundreds of dollars on any given visit,” said Auletta. He likened the store to a club. “The thing about collecting is, it keeps you young. We have a 95-year-old client who still drives and a 93-year-old client,” he added.
“Outside of stamp collectors and comic book collectors, no one knows we’re here. Still, we do alright,” he laughed.
As a collector himself, Auletta sometimes struggles to part with certain stamps. “If I see a stamp I really like I might buy it for my own collection,” he said.
He added, “Ninety-eight percent of stamps are worthless. It’s the other 2 percent.”
By Cady Kuzmich