Biz Beat

Utopia offers just that for gaming enthusiasts

Bryan Noriega, center, talks to customer Keana Macke on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, at Utopia Games and Collectibles on Tully Road in Modesto, Calif.
Bryan Noriega, center, talks to customer Keana Macke on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, at Utopia Games and Collectibles on Tully Road in Modesto, Calif.

I often say that two of the best things about this column is that I get to meet people pursuing their dreams and learn new things.

This week, I did both, and what I learned is so exciting: There is money in playing Pokémon. So maybe I should encourage my son, who loves Pokémon, to continue.

Playing Pokémon and other card games is at the heart of Utopia Games and Collectibles, which opened recently on Tully Road in Modesto. The store came about through owner Bryan Noriega’s love of gaming, as well as his background in retail, he said. He has helped other people operate businesses and felt it was time to branch out on his own.

Looking at some of the photos on Utopia’s Facebook page, it appears to be a good decision. Open less than a month, tournaments have drawn dozens of players already.

“We run a lot of events,” Noriega said. In addition to Pokémon, featured card games include Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!, he said. “Almost every day we have something going on, and the days we don’t, we end up running smaller tournaments for people.”

The store also offers gaming supplies as well as the cards that have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. And though the hobby can get pricey, it doesn’t have to be, Noriega said. “You can get started with as little as $10,” he said.

The games are popular among people who range from as young as 6 to into their 30s and beyond. It’s something people who grew up with Pokémon are now sharing with their children, Noriega said.

Also, these days when it seems like so much interaction happens via smartphone, it’s a way to get together with friends and spend time. “A lot of times, people don’t get to hang out with each other,” Noriega said. “This gives them the excuse to do that.”

And then there is the money. The card companies sponsor tournaments, large and small, and sometimes the prize money can be pretty impressive. Noriega said he has one customer who made several thousand dollars recently, and he is pondering making it into a career. So even if my son doesn’t play center field for the Yankees – my husband’s dream – maybe there’s a pro career ahead for him yet.

Find Utopia Games and Collectibles at 2013 Tully Road, Modesto. Call 209-526-7184.

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE BUSINESS BEAT: Local car wash operator Prime Shine has expanded again, opening its second Manteca location. According to a news release last week, a new car wash opened at the beginning of this month at 1050 S. Airport Way. Like all Prime Shine car washes, “about 95 percent of the fresh water applied to each vehicle is captured, recycled and potentially reused,” the release states.

“We appreciate how much people care for their cars,” Prime Shine President Evan Porges said in the release. “We also appreciate that they want to do the right thing when they wash them, especially with the heightened water use awareness in California. We use about 25 gallons per car – about the same as most people’s shower. Then we clean and filter that water so we can use it again. We are very conscious of every drop.”

With the expansion, Prime Shine – started in 1991 – now has 17 locations and 180 employees.