As a longtime Ohio State fan, Mark Mason knows all about the fierce rivalry between the Buckeyes and University of Michigan.
But it wasn’t until he and his brother, Chris, opened the Buckeye & Wolverine Shop in Maumee, Ohio, in August 2010 that he got a daily, front-row seat to the fan fervor.
Some Buckeyes backers refuse to touch anything in maize and blue; certain Michigan maniacs won’t touch scarlet and gray.
“That was the main thing I didn’t see coming,” says Mason, 58. Some customers -- shopping for friends or family who root for their rival -- will ask for help to pluck enemy items off a rack, while others “come up and ask for a shopping bag so they don’t actually have to touch the color of the other school.”
Welcome to life in the Buckeye & Wolverine Shop, which could only exist in northwest Ohio, where allegiances (and often, families) are mixed. Maumee is about 56 miles from Ann Arbor, Mich., and 136 miles from Columbus.
“You wouldn’t find a shop like this anywhere else in Ohio, and you certainly don’t find it in Michigan,” says Mason, who says Buckeyes merchandise accounts for about 60-65 percent of sales.
The shop, first opened in 1980, had operated under two owners in two northwest Ohio locations, Sylvania and Perrysburg. Mark and Chris, 54, bought the name and signage when the previous owner shut down after Christmas 2009. It was reborn in a 5,000-square-foot section of the Masons’ existing home-recreation store (Mason’s Billiards) in Maumee.
Ohio State and Michigan gear -- T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, flags, garden gnomes and even hot sauce and pasta (in “M” and “block O” shapes) -- are on opposite sides of the shop. There are a few Notre Dame and Michigan State items for sale, too.
Also for sale are doormats and flags that display both Ohio State and Michigan colors and logos with the message “A house divided” for couples with split interests.
Even in the shop, loyalties are divided. The Masons’ nephew, Trent Waldron, a longtime employee, is a Wolverines fan. A niece roots for the Fighting Irish.
“So it gets mixed up a little bit here,” says Mark.
He says the shop is just off the Ohio Turnpike, so travelers often discover it when they exit to find a place to eat or stay.
“They get a big kick out of it, especially if they’re from somewhere in Ohio where they just can’t believe you have a shop with the two schools next to each other,” says Mason.
“So I’ll see them out there taking pictures of the signs or they’ll come in and ask if they can take pictures, and they’re trying to get an angle where they can get both schools in it to show their friends. It’s part of the fun of it.”