Pop culture enthusiasts embrace five local venues

There are many great locations for pop culture enthusiasts, and pop culture connoisseurs, to develop strong bonds within their community. Although listed below are five locations and their stories, just for starters; Video Games Etc., The Electric Underground, The Core, Limited Edition Comics, and the Double Tap (Tap-Tap), which are all located locally within Cedar Falls and Waterloo.

Video Games Etc.:

Video Games Etc., located on 306 Viking Road in Cedar Falls, is a video game store that sells retro games, modern games, trading cards, toys, collectibles, movies and even comic books. They sell anything from Atari 2600 games and NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) games, to Nintendo Switch, Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X games. The store is open from 10 am to 9 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The Cedar Falls location opened in 2016, but the brand of Video Games Etc. began in 1993, with the first location being in Dubuque. The stores have expanded to six other locations plus the Cedar Falls location, bringing seven locations in Iowa.

Kory Bastian, the manager of the Cedar Falls location of Video Games Etc., said, “Video games are my passion. The best part of working at Video Games Etc. is seeing all or the history with the games.”

Regarding his relationship with customers, Bastian said,  “What I appreciate about customers is their patience and understanding. I also appreciate people being themselves here. It is a fun environment in general. Us as employees all hang out, play Super Smash Bros. and watch horror movies.”

Video Games Etc., as a store, has many sponsorships with other local stores in the community, including Cedar Falls local Gamestop and the Double Tap (Tap-Tap). For Gamestop, Bastian said, “Gamestop is good to us, and sends the company old games that they can’t sell due to Gamestop’s game restrictions.” Video Games Etc. also holds many community events, such as the Magic: The Gathering tournaments at the store.

All in all, Video Games Etc. has a strong community and loyalty base, and it’s customers and employees share strong bonds that are tied together by the figurative fragments of the passion for gaming.

The Electric Underground:

The Electric Underground, located on 1205 E San Marnan Drive in Waterloo, is a movie, video game and record store. They sell retro games, modern games, movies, records, vinyl and collectibles. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. This specific location opened in 1993, and the brand of The Electric Underground started in 1993, but the original name of the store was The Digital Dogpound. They have a total of two locations in the local area.

Kayla Korgman, the manager of the Cedar Falls location of The Electric Underground, said, “Working here is like walking down memory lane. It’s special seeing games, and cool seeing expensive games.”

Korgman also said she enjoys the company of customers and employees on a daily basis. “Everyone here has quirks. Having people and employees to work with is great here since everyone has stuff to geek out on. I love working with all walks of life.” 

Korgman said, “Every interaction is different, and I meet someone new every day.”

Since The Electric Underground sells mostly physical media, the location is a hotspot for collectors and physical media enthusiasts. “Collectors pay a lot of money for collectibles and retro games,” Korgman said. “I appreciate physical media buyers, because there are not too many of them anymore.”

Whatever the retro need, The Electric Underground has something for everyone who wants a slice of memorable media.

The Core:

The Core, located on 1926 Valley Park Drive in Cedar Falls, is a comic and board game store. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. This specific location was originally known as Oak Leaf Comics, until it was bought in 1999 by the store’s current owner, Mike Blanchard, and was renamed The Core for the simple reason of, according to Blanchard, “I wanted to be able to say, ‘I’m going to The Core.’” The store has a total of five employees, but is expanding it’s staff due to recent developments in The Core sales.

Blanchard said, “Everybody knows my name [at The Core], best clients in town, you get to know people; in fact, I met my wife here.” He also said, “Wonderful people with similar interests are the best part about working at The Core.”

The Core has many events throughout the year, including the annual Free Comic Book Day, which began in 2001, and has been going on ever since. Thousands of comics are given away, and collectibles and other comics are sold for cheap prices. There is also children’s face-painting, balloon animals and even staged superhero battles on top of The Core’s main building. “For the superhero battles on the roof, kids believing is the most important part,” Blanchard said. The specific date for this event will be released on The Core’s main website.

A second event is the Halloween Comic-Fest, which is part Free Comic Book Day, part costume contest. In this event, free Halloween-themed comics are given away, and a costume contest is held for anyone who attends at The Core. Winners of the costume contest could receive over $500 in store products. The event this year will be on October 23, right when the store opens.

A third event is the Heroes For Hope event, which takes place in the Children’s Hospital in Cedar Falls. This happens usually annually. The dates will be posted on The Core website when the event is scheduled to occur again. Heroes For Hope is when volunteers dress up as superheroes and go to the Children’s Hospital to cheer kids up who are ill. Employees of The Core will also give comics and other trinkets to the children in need. “Heroes For Hope in the Children’s Hospital is incredible and rewarding,” Blanchard said.

Other events such as these occur also occur, and details are always posted on the website.

The community at The Core set up through these events really impacts all who come to The Core. “Every type of person and class of people buy stuff here, whether they are truck drives, or whether they are doctors and lawyers,” Blanchard said.

The bonding between all types of people is what really drives The Core forward. So, if comics, pop culture, and an overall essence to bond with people strikes your fancy, The Core is a great place to do so.

Limited Edition Comics:

Limited Edition Comics, located on 2225 College Street in Cedar Falls, is part comic shop, part candle shop, part barbershop. The store is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. This specific location opened in 2007 under the ownership of Robert (Rob) Rogers. 

The store used to be fully a barbershop, but the comic books didn’t come in until Rob Rogers decided to start selling comic books on one wall of the barbershop. Then, the whole idea unraveled and expanded from there, becoming the community-driven business it is today. 

“I love the community, I grew up here.” Rogers said. “I’m local and love it. I love art. I love comics. I love everything about Limited Edition Comics.”

The store sells more than just comic books, though. Collectibles, figurines, board games and even a whole separate branded candle line are sold there. The owner of the candle business happens to be Roger’s brother, which only strengthens the bond between the employees at Limited Edition Comics. 

There are also many events that take place at Limited Edition Comics, other than sales. Free Comic Book Day, a Halloween Comic Fest, Toys For Tots, Magic: The Gathering tournaments and even artist signings all occur at the one location.

The community is also so bonding and expressive at Limited Edition Comics, and this can be seen by the simple interactions shared between customers and employees at the business, according to Rogers.“My whole life is expression,” he said. “Friendships and customer conversations are the best part about working at Limited Edition Comics. The comrodirity of the store is the best part about working with employees.”

When in need of a great community, or even just a haircut, there is no need to look further than the downtown area of UNI Campus for Limited Edition Comics.

Double Tap (Tap-Tap):

The Double Tap, or the Tap-Tap, located on 312 Main Street in Cedar Falls, is part arcade, part bar, part restaurant. The location is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, but for those under 21, you should only go there on Sundays, since it is Family Day on Sundays. The Double Tap was opened in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic by Ashley Lemper, who also owns other bars in Iowa such as Roxxy and The Stuffed Olive.

Employees who work at the area all share the same passion for gaming. “It is really fun working with other employees who have a love for gaming,” Lemper said. 

The arcade portion of the Double Tap hosts many arcade games—everything from popular arcade games like Pacman and Donkey Kong, to the more obscure arcade classics like Xenophobe and the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) counterpart, Track And Field, which is a more elusive arcade cabinet. 

“Younger kids are used to better, more graphically-improved games, but older games are more strategic,” Lemper said.

When the store initially opened, Lemper wanted a place where people could commune and bond over classic arcade games. “The best part about working here is seeing people excited while playing video games,” Lemper said. “The Tap-Tap is a good place to commune.” 

Lemper said she wants to expand the business after it’s year-long slog through the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding more arcade titles to their already growing collection and reputation for fun.  “More consoles, like an Atari, Sega, or Nintendo 64,” Lemper said.

The Double Tap is also already making connections with other local businesses, like Video Games Etc. Lemper said, “It is fun to work with local stores like Video Games Etc. A sense of bonding over arcade games is an important part of the Tap-Tap.”

Nostalgia-filled entertainment and new entertainment for the younger generation is what the Double Tap strives for, so if the search for a great retro experience is in the works, whatever generation one is from, the Double Tap is a great location to travel to.

When it comes to the phenomenon we as a society deem pop culture, connoisseurs of modern and past media will be glad to know that there are many locations out there that embellish the community and expression that many businesses strive for in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo local area.

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