Collector cards: Gahanna's Jon Upchurch finds nostalgic niche in Cricket's Grand Slam

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Jon Upchurch has opened Cricket’s Grand Slam at 110 N. High St., Suite 202, in Gahanna. The business features collectible trading cards.

Collecting has been in the cards for Gahanna resident Jon Upchurch ever since his great-grandfather founded Cricket’s Treasure Chest in Hilliard in 1992.

Upchurch said his great-grandfather, the late Walter Lemaster, introduced him to Pokémon and told him he’d sell the cards at his shop, specializing in collectibles, if he liked it.

Upchurch did, and Lemaster added it to the sports cards he had sold at the store he renamed Cricket’s Grand Slam Sports Cards in Hilliard. He also founded Lee's Catering.

Upchurch said his late great-grandmother, Gladys, was known affectionately as Cricket, who's the shop’s namesake.

After a location and owner change throughout the years, Cricket’s was reorganized in 2020, with Upchurch running the business out of his bedroom until he opened a space at 110 N. High St., Suite 202 in Gahanna in March.

“I have the original name and phone number,” Upchurch said. “It started in the family, and I hope it stays for many generations.”

He said he hopes his children, Ava, 7, and Asher, 2, will share his passion and continue the family business.

Popular Pokémon trading cards are available at Cricket’s Grand Slam in Gahanna.

"Every time I get something new, Ava asks, ‘Daddy, can I have that?’” he said. "I try to give her one of everything that’s new. She comes here, and I put her to work, putting stuff on the shelves. I grew up collecting Pokémon, then Yu-Gi-Oh!. This is something I enjoy doing.”

The 2010 Gahanna Lincoln High School alumnus said he hasn’t seen Pokémon as popular as it is now since the 2000s.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia,” he said. “Everyone goes to the Pokémon shelf. I sell Japanese Pokémon cards.”

The first series of the Pokémon card game was released in October 1996, according to pokemoncards.com

Upchurch said the Japanese cards are popular because the texture and foil are more pronounced.

“Usually, there’s a three-month gap between Japanese and English releases,” he said.  “With Pokémon, you get what you can get. I work with four suppliers.”

Upchurch said people collect the cards for the art and because they like to play the games.

Jordan Harris said he started collecting Pokémon cards about six months ago.

“I used to collect cards when I was young and eventually grew out of it,” he said. “I used to play the games, as well, and a new Pokémon game came out for the Nintendo Switch, and that got me back into Pokémon.”

Shortly after that, Harris said, cards became more popular due to the game, social-media influencers getting back into it and the price of the cards skyrocketing in value – prompting a lot of attention.

Jon Upchurch, owner of Cricket’s Grand Slam in Gahanna, has a framed collection of his Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards. He said he’s an official Konami judge for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game.

“The demand for Pokémon cards has grown so much that it’s near impossible to go to a store and find any at all,” he said. “This is when I found the shop Cricket’s Grand Slam. It is a small hole-in-the-wall shop that puts collectors before profits.”

For the past few months, Harris said, he has been buying from Cricket's almost exclusively because of its prices and stock.

“All of my experiences with this shop have been excellent, and the owner seems to truly care about his customers and fellow collectors,” he said. “This shop is a hidden gem in Gahanna.”

Brodie Spears said his experience at Cricket’s has been amazing and so much better than most mom-and-pop card shops with the whole Pokémon and sports-card craze going on.

“Cricket's prices are by far the fairest,” he said. “You're also not battling against the scalpers of a big-box store, as Cricket's makes it known every day on its Facebook page what their inventory is going to be.”

Spears said he collected all sorts of cards in his youth but stopped before going to college.

“Now that I have a child and he is getting into Pokémon, him and I have been collecting Pokémon cards together,” he said. “It's been very difficult to get any with scalpers, but Cricket's always has something for us to collect.”

Although his family has roots in Hilliard, Upchurch, 29, said he and his mother, Yvette Nguyen, moved to Gahanna when he was in eighth grade, and Gahanna is his home now.

Upchurch said he started with a lot of online sales, but more people are visiting the shop.

“I have a large group of regulars already,” he said.

Upchurch operates Cricket's in addition to mainthis day job as a specialist at the Ohio Department of Transportation.

When his lease is up at the end of 2022, he said, he hopes to move to a larger space in Gahanna and be a host for tournaments.

Upchurch is an official Konami judge for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game, he said.

His store currently includes stock from the original Cricket’s store – NFL Five trading cards. He also sells Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Cardfight! Vanguard and Weiss Schwarz cards. Sports cards include baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer.

Upchurch said card prices range from 10 cents for a basic card to more than $300 for a Rainbow Rare Pikachu.

He said he eventually might expand to sell comics.

Store hours are 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla

Cricket’s Grand Slam is open at 110 N. High St., Suite 202, in Gahanna. Hours are 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.