Game explosion

(Published in the September 5, 2019 issue of City Pages)

The Gaming Emporium opened Sept. 3, replacing Johnny Cee Cards and adding another locally owned shop to the mall


David Miller opened The Gaming Emporium in the Wausau Center mall.

David Miller is no stranger to the collectible market. He owned a card shop (mostly baseball cards) in the 1990s called Collector’s Choice, which, after a few different iterations and owners, eventually became Johnny Cee Cards, on Grand Avenue.

Now the store has come full circle. On Tuesday, Miller opened The Gaming Emporium in the Wausau Center mall. Essentially, Miller bought Johnny Cee Cards and is moving it to the mall, but with a slightly different focus and name. Johnny Cee closed Sept. 2, and The Gaming Emporium opened Sept. 3.

All the games patrons loved about Johnny Cee Cards will still be there. The shop will focus on collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering, YuGiOh! and Pokémon, for instance, as well as “living” card games, which aren’t necessarily collectible because none of the cards are rare. Miller’s new store also focuses on top-selling table-top board games — the moniker for the more intricate variety such as Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride.

New for the store—and something folks passing by The Gaming Emporium’s 3,000 square foot storefront have probably noticed—are Legos. The Gaming Emporium sells both new and used Lego sets, and has a big Lego bin from which people can buy cups of individual Lego bricks.

Miller is not one to rest on his laurels. He already has his eyes on the storefront next door to The Gaming Emporium for future expansion. That’s because Miller wants to really promote gaming tournaments. He plans to have regular tournaments for Magic: The Gathering on Friday nights, and for other games such as Warhammer, which is played with miniatures that enthusiasts painstakingly paint. That game is pretty impressive to onlookers just for the artistry of it, Miller says.

So why Wausau Center Mall? Miller said the mall was last on his list of potential locations, but turned out to be the best idea. The space was far less expensive than just about any other site he looked at, is centrally located and offered indoor parking. And with all the empty space, there are plenty of storefronts where tournaments can be temporarily held. Plus, it’s within walking and biking distance for a greater number of potential customers.

Miller believes his shop will bring at least 100 new people to the mall every day. “This is a destination store,” Miller says. “My customer base will come here no matter where it was.”

A crowd of about 30 lined up outside of The Gaming Emporium Tuesday morning, and the store has been steadily occupied with customers since. Gamers already are playing Magic and other games on the tables in back. Miller expects the Legos to be a huge draw for families with children, especially since places to purchase such things are disappearing, with the recent closure of all Shopko stores.

In fact, his store might be the latest of a new trend in the mall: locally owned businesses. The Gaming Emporium became the 15th locally owned store to now operate in the mall. A 16th is in the works in the former Yankee Candle space.

Also having a grand opening over the weekend is Odin Games and Hobby, at 1699 Schofield Avenue in Schofield. They specialize in board and card games, as well as other hobby products.