This year has proved to be a big year for Pokémon TCG. With an established and loyal fan base already in place, its explosion beyond mainstream has been bolstered by record-breaking card auction prices and celebrity star power — having the price of a sealed booster box go from $60,000 USD to $360,000 USD in a single year.
While 2020 is regarded as one of the worst years in recent history, some success stories have emerged from the horrible year. One of those stories involves Logan Fournier and Edmond Geroges of Hobbiesville. In a mere seven months, Fournier went from searching his parents’ basement for his childhood cards to grossing $1.2 million CAD in sales… just let that sink in.
Based in Ontario, Canada, Fournier was able to achieve his dream of opening a hobby shop essentially overnight thanks to the sale of his beloved childhood cards. His story is one of trial and error, growing pains, and boundless passion. It’s the latter attribute that he wishes to convey to his new customers, basing his whole shop around his community and the love for TCG and collecting alike.
Curious as to what it takes to open a hobby shop in the current landscape, we caught up with Fournier to find out what it’s like being a new TCG business owner, which cards he regrets selling most, and his thoughts on the Pokémon bubble.
Could you please introduce yourself and explain your connection to Pokémon TCG?
My name is Logan Fournier and I am the owner of Hobbiesville! My connection to the Pokemon TCG really comes from when I was a kid. I can remember getting a brand new GameBoy Color in red and the game that my mom got for me with it was Pokemon Red. I was instantly hooked into the game which then led me to the trading card game.
Any time I would visit a convenience store or go to the comic book shop, I had to get some cards. I’m sure my mom and stepdad spent more than I ever made on cards, but that’s a different story. Luckily I was also particular about the cards I got and wanted to keep them pristine. I always put them directly into a penny sleeve and then a top loader.
Fast forward 20 years, when COVID-19 hit, I started seeing a lot of YouTube videos online about Pokémon card openings and I was instantly taken back to when I was a kid. I knew I had some cards at my parents’ house and needed to go find them. I searched for about two days when I finally found my old collection and everything was just how I had left it. Most of the cards I had were untouched which was amazing. I was slightly worried that my sister might have destroyed them, but she must have missed them. I also found some old Yu-Gi-Oh cards which is another TCG I was really into.
Once I got the cards home I started surfing through eBay to see how much the cards were going for and I almost threw up. My shadowless Charizard had skyrocketed and a few other cards were hitting pretty astronomical values, even though most of the cards I sold are now worth much more. I ended up selling all my childhood cards, but I wanted to do something bigger. So I thought to myself, why don’t I start a small company selling cards from my house. I thought that’s all it was going to be, but things started to escalate pretty quick and I knew I had landed on something pretty amazing.
What were some of your earliest cards you sold that turned some serious profit?
My most profitable card, like a lot of people, was my Charizard card. I actually had listed it not knowing it was shadowless. Someone on eBay kindly reached out to me to let me know that I had undervalued the listing and to update. Another card that turned some serious profit was my 1st Edition Shining Gyarados card, as well as my 1st Edition Shining Mewtwo.
I had a lot of base set cards sitting at my mom’s which I really wish I held onto until now since the market has exploded. At the time they weren’t turning that big of a profit, but it did make me enough to launch Hobbiesville!
Can you walk us through the pivotal moments/milestones that gave birth to the store? I mean, seven months seems extremely fast for a lot of people. How did you process it all?
The biggest milestone for us was when Champion’s Path released. We added it on the website and it just blew up completely. At that moment I knew that this was going to be big.
From there, we just started seeing sales grow day after day and knew we needed to get our own space and open a retail location. Let’s just say my house was starting to overflow with Pokemon products.
As for processing it, I think I am still processing it.
So at what point were you like “Ok, I can make a career out of this.” Can you remember that exact moment?
I actually still struggle with the idea of this being a career. Not because it can’t be, but it feels strange to be doing something I care about so much, and that thing also being my full-time job.
I think the pivotal moment was when we had our first big weekend. I came back into the store with about 200 orders to ship out. I knew at that moment that if I tried to balance days like that with the career I had been doing previously, I would be letting a lot of people down. People that really were supporting our business and what we were doing, and didn’t seem fair to me. I also recognized if we could meet this demand this could become something big.
Were there any cards you were sad to see go?
Looking back on all of the cards I used to have, I’m definitely sad that I can’t find them. They were a big piece of my childhood and brought back a ton of memories for me. If I had to narrow it down to just one card it probably would be my Blaine’s Charizard. For some reason, I remember getting that card the most. I saved up to buy it at a local card shop in Ottawa. Every Sunday me and my mom went for brunch and right beside the brunch spot there was a comic book shop.
I would constantly check to make sure it didn’t sell and eventually saved up enough cash to be able to buy it. Pretty sure at the time it was $25 dollars to buy which just shows how much these cards have grown in value. It was probably the first thing I had ever really saved for as well, so it meant a lot to me.
Why was the next step for you to open your own store?
The store actually started out as more of a warehouse. My living room was completely full of product. We had actually moved all of our furniture from the living room into our guest room. It just wasn’t working so I called my business partner Edmond and said we need to change something here.
On top of the space issue, we had a lot of questions around our business being real so it seemed like the next best step to also become more reputable in the industry. Most hobby shops do have a physical location and we wanted to make sure we also aligned with what they were doing.
What has been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge so far really has been getting enough product. There is clearly demand in the industry and there are some big players who have long-standing relationships with the wholesalers here. These relationships lead to them getting more product, but we are slowly catching up!
Another big challenge for us has been bots. They keep me up at night. Anytime we do a big release we almost immediately have 1,000s of people hovering on the website and things sell out in under a minute. Obviously, the sale portion of bots is nice, but we also want to get products to actual collectors and people who enjoy opening products. We have had some releases go really well and others that have just been a mess where bots immediately clear us out. To combat this we launched an app that does stop them, but I’m sure they will find ways around the processes we currently have in place and will need to pivot.
If someone had thoughts of opening their own shop, what’s some advice you could give to them?
It depends! If you are looking to mainly sell Pokémon, I would say keep it online and find a really good wholesaler that can support you with their own product knowledge. Not all Pokemon products fly off the shelves and you can get stuck holding some of them for longer than others.
If you are looking to expand into sports, then I definitely recommend finding a small shop with affordable rent. Most sports products require you to have a brick and mortar shop but don’t overextend yourself. Building customers takes time and a lot of the current hobby stores have been around for a long period of time and have built up good relationships with their customers!
What is your current collection looking like now?
My collection now is mainly sealed product. I personally think that’s where the best investment is. I currently have one of each booster box from black and white sets to the more current ones.
I think eventually I would like to go even further back, but the prices right now are pretty astronomical so it’s difficult to get good deals and make the investment worth it. I also collect sealed products from other TCGS. Mainly I have been collecting Flesh And Blood first edition boxes as I have high hopes for the products and where it’s going to go!
Could you tell us more about Hobbiesville? Aside from Pokemon, what else are you into, and what other sorts of products do you sell?
For us, we are trying to make it less of a typical hobby shop and more of a curated store, similar to a streetwear boutique. I think sometimes a hobby shop can be a little daunting to go into if you are unfamiliar with the product and we want to make it easy to shop.
We are also super community-based. It’s awesome to see our customers continue to shop with us and make us their number one store to go to. We have tried really hard to create that community and want to continue to watch it grow.
As for products, we sell anything from sports cards to Warhammer, but also puzzles and board games. I think the idea is that not just avid collectors can come into the shop, but just your everyday person who is just looking for something to do, especially during this pandemic.
Through all of this, what’s one crazy story you can tell our readers?
I had been opening Hidden Fates tins to find the Shiny Charizard with no luck. Then one day, we got a shipment in and were laying them out for stock and I accidentally stepped on the tin. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sell it so I ended up opening it, and the first pack I opened had the Charizard.
Instantly, my business partner and I looked at each other and burst out laughing since we were completely caught by surprise.
Why do you think Pokemon is having such a revival right now? I mean aside from the monetary aspect, what do you think led to this mania? Do you think it’s a bubble?
I think it has a lot to do with people being at home. Similar to myself, we had the time to go through old things that we didn’t have time for before the pandemic. It brings back the nostalgia of Pokémon and how much we used to enjoy collecting the cards as kids!
I don’t think it’s necessarily a bubble. It definitely has its ups and downs, but I think similar to before, it will always come back in a way. I also think people have also realized there is value in collecting trading cards.
Outside of Pokemon, do you think anything else will have its moment?
There is a relatively new TCG that just hit Canada. It was in the US market for a bit before us, but it has a lot of potential to become something really big. It is called Flesh And Blood and was designed by some gaming veterans in New Zealand. The artwork for the game is amazing, and a lot of investors are already diving in headfirst. I think it could be pretty revolutionary to the industry and opens up even more room for new TCGs to hit the market!
Business has been good. What do your family and friends think of your success?
In the beginning, my friends and family didn’t really take what I was doing seriously, but they have since warmed up to it! One of my good friends actually works with me now and she had admitted that she laughed when I first told her the idea, but once she became a part of it she saw how far we could take it!
Now a lot of my friends and family are really interested and constantly ask me questions about the business and what’s going on in the industry. They also talk about how much they see about Pokémon online and how ahead of it Hobbiesville was. A few have even asked to invest in the business which I think is super exciting to see! We would love to get more of our friends and family on board and work together to grow Hobbiesville into something huge!
Do you think being located where you are is an advantage or disadvantage? I’m guessing a lot of your shoppers are online and from the States?
I don’t think it’s a disadvantage at all. We get a ton of support from the Canadian community and we are super thankful for that. We currently have a retail location outside of Ottawa, but are looking to branch into the city and help maximize some of our foot traffic.
I do think there would be a ton of benefits to opening a location in the United States especially as we scale the company. The main area where this would be an advantage is faster shipping times and more transparency around the process for our U.S. customers.
Being in the United States would also give us access to a few different large distributors which would be an advantage as we scale up.
Ok, so a First Edition Charizard is out of the question for a lot of our readers, but what are some of your picks that are sitting at relatively reasonable prices that you think are great value. It doesn’t even need to be from Pokémon TCG.
That is a great question. I actually think cards from current sets will end up turning a profit in the future. For example, the chubby Pikachu from Vivid Voltage is already starting to fetch a good chunk of change especially since vivid voltage has been limited due to the market boom. Remember when Charizard first came out it really wasn’t that difficult to find in hobby shops so hold your cards and eventually you will see a rise in value.
I also think some of the Flesh and Blood cards are good ones to hold. With the product being so new and 1st edition prints selling out super quick, a lot of these cards will increase in value. There are already some that are fetching over $5k and the product has only been around for a short period of time.
Where are you looking to take Hobbiesville, and what are the main takeaways from your experience thus far?
We really want to grow Hobbiesville around the community that follows us. Our main goal is to elevate our shipping times and speed everything up. Amazon clearly has changed what people expect from shopping online and we want to make sure Hobbiesville can align with that. We have been working with different carriers and shipping providers to meet this goal.
We also want to grow our global presence. Currently, most of our traffic is within Canada aside from larger releases where our website floods with US traffic. We want to be in all areas of the globe and help service them more effectively.
The main takeaways so far are we need to be riskier with our buying. We have had a few instances where we were hesitant about a big buy and have really regretted it. One of those being an XY Evolutions buy. We had the opportunity to buy about 25 cases of XY Evolutions before the product boomed and we passed on it.