Always on the cusp of pop culture: John’s Total Entertainment celebrates 30 years

In 1993, a store called John’s Sportcards and Comics opened in a small building in what is now the Willie’s Supervalu parking lot. The owner of the store, John Amundson, was interested in sportcards and memorabilia, and says that comics kind of came with the territory. During this time, a new game called Magic the Gathering was debuted, and Amundson decided to start carrying that as well, setting the tone for what the store would evolve into.

Amundson remained at this location for about a year until he could no longer stay due to impending construction. “I had already put a year into this business, I couldn’t just pack it and quit,” says Amundson. He made plans to move into the upstairs of the City Center Mall, but needed a place to land in the interim. He was able to set up shop in a back corner of the Ben Franklin store, and roped off a small area for his business to operate until he could move into his new location in the mall. 

At this time, Amundson explains, the City Center Mall was bustling. He was moving into a much larger space and needed to fill it with inventory that would be cost effective for his still young business and that would be sure to sell, especially since this move increased his overhead costs. 

Taking inspiration from The Newsstand and The Dugout in St. Cloud, Amundson decided to start selling magazines, and a few newspaper publications. He eventually had 32 linear feet of over 1000 magazine titles. He also began renting videos, and then added in a small selection of books to his inventory.

Amundson continued to think about ways to increase inventory, and eventually added in CD’s, and then deciding to buy used CD’s to have a selection of both new and used CD’s in a time before burning your own CD’s was all the rage.

Eventually, Amundson purchased two N64 consoles and eight controllers for the store. Kids could come in, pay $1 per hour per controller, and play a video game with their friends. “N64’s at the time were a lot of money,” Amundson explains, “not every family could have one, and even if they did have one, they probably didn’t have a bunch of controllers for their children’s friends to play with.” Having the gaming consoles and controllers in stores allowed kids to come and play with their friends, and provided a way for them to have that experience regardless of what they could have at home.

Employee, and Amundson’s right hand man, Levi Rinkenberger shares memories of getting in trouble as a kid to come to the store and play the N64. “I would take quarters off my mom’s dresser, go to school, and after school get on the bus and get off at a friend’s house that was close to the store, and go to the store instead of going to daycare like I was supposed to.” He also shares that being able to watch his young daughter enjoy the same store that he spent so many hours at is an immensely special experience. 

When the Pogs craze came to Morris, Amundson was ready. He stocked pogs, and even held pogs tournaments in the hallway of the City Center Mall outside of his store. “The hallways were packed with kids,” he recalls.

At this point, Amundson realized that John’s Sportscards and Comics didn’t really cut it for a name anymore. He began calling it John’s Sportscards and Comics; News and Views. Eventually, he added (your total entertainment store) to the name, and finally settled on John’s Total Entertainment.

In March of 1998, Amundson opened up his store on Atlantic Ave where it is currently located.

When he opened the Atlantic Ave store, Amundson decided to really carry books, and at one time carried hundreds of book titles that spanned all kinds of genres.

Amundson also expanded his CD collection, alongside the sports cards and weekly comics from which he began the business.

Another card game hit the market at this time as well: Pokemon. The Pokemon craze was huge, and John’s Total Entertainment was ready to keep players stocked, in addition to continuing to carry Magic the Gathering.

Amundson again expanded his business by beginning to rent movies when Coborn’s closed. He also began buying and selling used DVDs, and says that he still sells quite a few DVDs and blu rays. 

When the Harry Potter series became popular, many large retail stores were having midnight release sales when the latest book in the series was released. Amundson decided to do the same at his store, and says that people would be lined up down the street to purchase the newest Harry Potter books; an experience that wouldn’t have been readily available in many other small and rural communities.

When electronic reading devices became popular, that hurt book sales. No matter how large John’s selection was, an online seller that could stock your e-reader would always have more. 

In a similar vein, when behemoth online sellers became popular, small local businesses took a hit as well. John’s Total Entertainment took that cue and began selling products online as well. Customers can choose to shop in store or online while still supporting a small business.

In 2020 when the pandemic hit, many people were looking to find things to occupy their time. As they began their search many found their old sets of Magic the Gathering or Pokemon cards and decided to resume collecting, a service that Amundson was able to readily provide. A lot of folks got into board games and video games, and Amundson was able to help people fulfill those hobbies. “Christmas of 2020 we sold a lot of board games,” he adds.

Going into their 31st year, Amundson is doing some renovations to the store. Upstairs will be getting new carpeting, and rearranging, while the downstairs will be seeing some major changes.

Currently, the basement is one room for games and league nights to be held, but Amundson has a vision to expand that area. He plans to clear out his current store room to expand the place to make room for multiple events at the same time, including leagues, game nights, and video game tournaments. 

Expanding the basement will also make room to host board game nights and demonstrations. Amundson explains that many people are interested in board games they’ve never played, but don’t want to buy them before they’re sure they’ll understand and like it. Having demonstrations of the board games can help people make the decision to purchase the games, and be happy with their purchase.

Amundson also shares that, like many industries, there are ebbs and flows of people wanting to buy products in stores and online, and has noted the resurgence of small bookstores. With his ongoing renovations he hopes to begin carrying some more books. 

Today, the inventory you’ll find at John’s Total Entertainment will be a far cry from the original sports cards and comics theme as it has always evolved with time, pop culture and the customers. When asked if he had any major plans for the future, Amundson replied that, “we are always on the cusp of pop culture,” and plans to continue offering popular games, collectibles, and other items.