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A new Pokémon store with a major social network recently opened in Sarasota

Remember those kids in the late 90s and early 2000s who were obsessed with Pokémon cards, cartoons, and video games? Well, those kids have all grown up now, with careers and kids of their own – and, for many of them, their Pokemon obsession has never faded.

For Kirill Lavrentyev, 33, Pokémon has become a business in its own right. Like so many others, he moved to Sarasota with his wife and children last year after deciding that a double lockdown – one for a pandemic, another due to freezing Minneapolis winter temperatures – was not so funny. A lifelong Pokémon fan, he noticed upon arrival that there was no dedicated Pokémon storefront in Sarasota, so he recently opened Pokeballers Mart near Webber Street and Beneva Road.

Kirill Lavrentyev and his family at his store, Poke Ballers Mart, in Sarasota.

“I grew up with Pokémon,” Lavrentyev says. “It’s nostalgic for me and it was a big hobby of mine. Those of us around the age of 27 to 35 now have our own adult money and are reliving the hobby. There’s lots of kids from the new generation also coming.

For those of you who don’t know, the plot of Pokémon goes like this: the protagonists are pre-teens who come out of their homes with their fictional creatures called Pokémon (Japanese for “pocket monsters”) . The cartoon series follows Ash Ketchum, a young trainer, and his Pokémon partner Pikachu, the adorable yellow character who has become the brand’s icon. A Pokémon Trainer’s goal is to make their Pokémon fight against other Pokémon to become stronger. If a Pokémon gains enough battle experience, it can evolve into another, more powerful creature.

There are games, cards, movies, stuffed animals, tournaments and more. A card collected more than 5 million dollars in an auction. It’s a vast franchise with no end in sight.

“It’s a fun, laid-back hobby that you can share with your kids and bond with, even if you don’t know anything about it,” says Lavrentyev. A big part of the allure of cards is the mystery of not knowing what you might get when you open a deck of cards. Millions of people watch videos online of people doing just that.

You can find the cards at most big box retailers, but what’s different about Lavrentyev’s 400 square foot store is that he stocks original Japanese cards in addition to English cards, his prices are best and he gets the latest product. “When I was just starting out, I spent days on Google Maps Tokyo finding stores and then translating my emails to build professional relationships,” he says. “I’ve picked up a few and when they get the product, they ship it to me via FedEx.”

His maps are also authentic. Many store customers have purchased counterfeits on Amazon. Another reason Japanese cards are coveted is because “the colors are brighter and they’re perfectly cut,” says Lavrentyev. Plus, they get higher ratings from companies that rate card quality. (A local business ranks Pokémon cards on a scale of 1-10, sometimes potentially tripling their value, depending on their condition.)

Before leaving real estate to open Poke Ballers Mart, Lavrentyev built an impressive online following by filming himself opening rare packs and boxes. In less than two years, his Youtube channel, Poke_Ballers gained over 100,000 subscribers, in addition to tens of thousands more on his ICT Tac and instagram canals. It also “became one of the top 5% of online Pokemon stores on Shelfwhich is the fastest growing e-commerce platform in the West,” he says. “It’s like eBay with live auction trading. »

William Asselstine of Sarasoa, a self-proclaimed 29-year-old lover of all things nerdy, found Lavrentyev and Poke Ballers online.

“I saw it on Instagram with a card I wanted to pick up a week before it was supposed to come out,” Asselstine explains. “I looked at the location and saw Sarasota and saw he just opened the store. I went there and we’ve been friends ever since.” With a personal collection of Pokémon cards worth between $20,000 and $30,000, Asselstine also has a Pokémon-themed Youtube channel called albino manatee which focuses on connecting with others through raffle giveaways.

“It’s a cool way to meet people from all over the world and I’ve sent cards to the Philippines, Australia, South Africa and Brazil,” says Asselstine. “I like to share the cards with people who can’t afford to open the packs themselves, or someone I know who says they would like a card and, if I find it, I’ll love sending it in. What’s cool about Pokemon There are 700 different ones and it’s fun to log on to the ones you love.

For those not participating, it may seem silly, but the flames of the Pokémon fandom are being fanned for the next generation, both online and in the store.

“Showcase is about finding a like-minded community,” says Lavrentyev. “I meet moms while the kids play cards. Kids meet. Parents bond with their kids. It’s become more of a mainstay in the community. Kids come in and say, ‘Hey, I just see you on YouTube” and get excited.”

Lavrentyev is working on becoming certified by the Pokémon brand so that in the future he can organize tournaments and teach people how to play. Hopefully, “in a year or two we’ll be out of space,” he says.

Poke Ballers Mart is located at 3575 Webber St., Suite 101, Sarasota. For more information, visit the shop website.