A longtime Duluth business is branching out into Superior.
Collector’s Connection is poised to open a second store at 1616 Tower Ave. on Black Friday, Nov. 26. The site formerly housed the Wisconsin Job Center and, more recently, Douglas County Abstract and Century 21. It offers 4,000 square feet of retail space, more than twice the size of the Collector’s Connection store in Duluth's Village Square Mall.
“It has a lot more space for comic books, and CDs and vinyl,” said owner Aaron Davis, as well as more parking space.
Customers will find 50,000 back issues of comics on display at the Superior store, he said, with another 50,000 in reserve. The new store also offers a space groups can use to play games together. While the Superior location won’t initially offer Friday Night Magic games, Davis said that’s definitely in the cards for the future.
The business, which carries new and used sports cards, comics, graphic novels, card supplies, role playing games, Magic: The Gathering products, Pokemon cards, CDs, vinyl records and more, has seen an uptick in business since the pandemic began.
“Pre-pandemic, I had two full-time, one part-time (employee), now I’ve got seven full-time between the two stores, and we’ll probably be hiring one more person,” Davis said.
The demand was sparked, in part, by nostalgia. People who were stuck at home during the pandemic started deep cleaning and ran across things like old sports card collections. Remembering the fun they had, many returned to the pastime.
“They couldn’t go to games, so cards are a way to connect with the team,” Davis said.
Comics and collectibles like Pokemon cards also surged back in popularity during the pandemic lockdown, giving generations a chance to connect.
“Those kids that collected Pokemon, they grew up and then they got to enjoy it and get their kids into it. And it’s something that oftentimes kids do together with parents,” Davis said.
Being situated along Tower Avenue gives the new store high visibility and puts it within walking distance of shops that offer similar services, including Globe News and Level Up. That’s a positive to Davis.
“I think it’s a very good thing, because a lot of times people will hit all the stores in one stop … I think it’ll be good synergy,” he said.
The business owner said he initially bought the building at 1616 Tower Ave. as a warehouse and a possible space to process mail orders. Instead, it’s giving the longtime Twin Ports brand a chance to air out its collection and branch into new areas like buying and selling video games. Another new service being offered at both stores is professional sport card grading through Michigan-based International Sports Authentication.
"We're going to be a drop-off point where people can drop off their cards and get them back again within two or three weeks, assessed by a professional," Davis said.
Collector's Connection opened its doors to customers in 1982 along Superior Street. Although it's moved from spot to spot, including a stint at the Miller Hill Mall, it's carved a niche for itself in the Twin Ports. Some customers have been visiting the store for years. It's a passion for Davis and his employees.
“I like retail,” Davis said, and the smiles of customers when they walk out.
He said employees have two jobs: Help the customer find what they’re looking for and help them find what they didn’t know they were looking for.
What's the secret to the store's longevity?
"People need to have fun, and this can be as inexpensive as you want. I mean, we have dollar comics," Davis said.
Although some customers turn to eBay or other online sites for collectibles, the Twin Ports store gives them a chance to explore and do a quality check.
"When you buy it from me, you see first-hand what you're getting. There's no question," Davis said.