For those who have never heard of him, Ryan Johnson (aka cardcollector2) is a full-time card entrepreneur who recently acquired a brick and mortar LCS in Grove City, Ohio. Ryan also runs an event called “Trade Night” every year at the National. While it might not sound like a big deal, his trade nights are not your typical events. This year’s Trade Night will be in a 10,000 sq ft room with seating for over 400 people as well as free food, drinks and prizes.
I reached out to Ryan shortly after he acquired his LCS to be the first ever interview on RookieCollector.com and, even with being extremely busy, he made sure to make it happen.
For those who don’t know about you, tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, where are you from, etc. How long have you been in the hobby and what did you originally start collecting?
I got started collecting with Pokemon cards back in the late 90’s. That transitioned to football cards in the early 2000’s and it’s been that way ever since.
My grandma used to take me to flea markets, card shops, etc. to find cards. I was always interested in getting new cards, whether that be trading, buying or selling I didn’t care.
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and live here today. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons I collect Ohio State stuff, is because growing up an avid buckeye fan and being an alum, it got me hooked on collecting Buckeyes.
What type of stuff do you pc now? What are some of your favorite cards?
Ohio State football is by far and away my favorite stuff to collect. I prefer the rare stuff. 1/1, sick logo patches, contenders cracked ice, etc. It’s not to say I wont collect the lesser stuff, but in a day when these guys have so many cards, I’d rather buy there best 2 or 3 cards instead of a bunch of them that aren’t as cool.
You just recently bought a card store. How did the deal come about? Did you previously know or have a relationship with the owner?
Yeah this kind of came out of left field really. I’ve known the owner for 15 years, basically since I got into the hobby. The owner had mentioned selling the shop back in late 2018, but nothing had come of it. Well I was offered the store in May, and finalized the purchase 48 hours after I was offered it. It really happened so fast.
It seems like the deal went down pretty quick, how were you able to handle all of the logistics of the transition so quickly and smoothly (from finances/remodel, to payment processing/inventory/etc)?
Remodel wasn’t originally as big of a project as it turned out to be. I knew a few things I wanted to do, but my wife and my best friend came up to the shop one night to kind of talk about the remodel and we just kept adding things to the list.
We planned out all the details Tuesday, bought the stuff Wednesday, and started the project Wednesday night. My wife and I were at the shop the next 3 days for 15+ hours each, including being there past 1 a.m. all 3 nights. It was exhausting, but seeing it now, I know it was so worth it.
All the inventory purchased was put into boxes and about 3/4 of it was removed. It was a lot of outdated stuff. The inventory in the shop wasn’t great to be honest. The terms of the sale including the lease, location, allocations and such made the deal appealing, but not really what was in the store.
Because the remodel took so long, other things got placed on the back burner. I was up working when we got home most nights at like 2 or 3 am, setting up accounts, buying the point of sale system, setting up meetings with accountants, etc. It was and still is a ton of work. Definitely caught me off guard just how much really needs done when running a small business. It really is a lot!
Keeping a physical card store running successfully can be a tough task. What do you plan to do differently to set your store apart from others and stay successful?
Yeah this is definitely a good thing to do. The remodel was a big part of my plan. The shop before was built to be very transactional, with little space for moving around in front of the counters, and no places to sit. I opened the store up a lot more, added 8 seats throughout, added some fresh paint, added new lighting, and made it seem more personable.
I’ve learned a lot from other card store owners over the years, so taking what I’ve learned from them has also helped too. Offer a variety of products, have plenty of wax, stay stocked on supplies, etc.
I also think I had a huge advantage when I started with my online presence. With over 15k followers on Instagram, it was a lot easier to get the word out that I bought a card store than had I done it with 150 followers. So hopefully with a new store design and some modern, fresh ideas the shop will be able to take off soon!
Are you re-branding/changing the name of the store to match your cardcollector2 brand? Where can we find your store and does it have a website yet?
Yes. I wasn’t sold on this from the start but quickly came to realize this made the most sense. I talked to Ryan Bannister at RBICru7 and we talked about naming. He brought up a good point how I have 6+ years of brand equity into this name, and so many people recognize it from my online following. I’ve had a website for a while (cardcollector2.com) but it needs some work to get updated to have info on my shop as well. It will be done in the future but for now it’s on the list of things to do!
The shop is located in Grove City, Ohio and the address is:
CardCollector2 Sports Cards
4026 Broad Way
Grove City, OH 43123
You’ve been talking about Trade Night at the National a lot lately. Tell us about Trade Night and how we can be a part of it.
Trade Night was actually created by KentuckyBasketballCards (Jimmy) back in 2016. He called me one day a few months before the show and told me he was renting out a room where collectors could come and hang out and meet the people they interact with on IG on a daily basis. It was a huge success early on.
Last year, Jimmy got a new job and was actually unable to attend the National and asked me to run it. I wanted to put my own stamp on the event, so decided I would reach out to some big players in the card game (Panini, Upper deck, Ultra Pro, PSA, COMC, a few shops, etc.) to talk about donating prizes (sponsorship) for free exposure on my page and at the event. Almost all companies said yes and we were able to collect a huge prize pool. It was a huge success at the event. We had our largest crowd yet at over 350 people, which is great because in order to get there, you had to drive 10+ minutes.
This year, it’s going to be next door to the convention center at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. I’m expecting big, big things this year to say the least. With being able to walk out of the show and into the event, I expect this event to be wildly successful. I’ve been planning details and booking things for the event for months now, so I will be excited to see it all come together that day for sure! Trade Night will run from 6-10 pm on Thursday, August 1st (2019) and will be free to get in. Feel free to stop by and say hey!
Last Question. You’ve built an impressive following on social media, sold tons of cards successfully online and now own your own brick and mortar card store. What advice would you give to someone who would want to follow in your footsteps?
Have patience. This is the biggest thing I can stress to most. I think the biggest part of the success comes from being patient. I certainly didn’t expect to own a store so early. It just happened. But I was prepared to buy one 10-15 years down the road.
Most people who are surprised by my big online following are always asking how I got it so quickly, but that’s just not the case. It took 6 years to get that big. I hear people tell me with 150 Instagram followers and no other industry connections that they want to run group breaks tomorrow. I certainly love the ambition, but often times people get ahead of themselves and try to rush success. I didn’t break boxes on IG until I had over 8500 followers. I made trades, bought and sold on Instagram and made myself apart of the community before I tried doing anything else.
Also, a third point about patience goes back to building your collection. While I’ve been fortunate enough to invest smart and make plenty of deals over the years, this too took time. 10 years ago this year I went to my first National in Cleveland with $300. $200 of that I borrowed from my grandma. I had a few cards on me then too, but man it was a very different time for me. It was hard to see it at the time and I know 16 old me wouldn’t have believed it, but good things happen when you’re patient.
To see more of Ryan’s personal collection or to find out more about Trade Night and his LCS, check him out on instagram, twitter, or his website: CardCollector2.com. Or if you’re in the Grove City area, check out his store!
Have any questions that did not get answered? Want to suggest the next person to interview? Leave a comment below!