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Baseball, Pokemon, etc.

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Strike Zone is where Pokemon, Willie Mays and Tom Brady hang out.

The Strike Zone, recently opened in the heart of downtown Petaluma, could just as easily be called the “Fun Zone,” or perhaps a “Sports Card Plus” shop.

There are certainly sports cards for every major and a few minor sports, along with the requisite memorabilia — autographed helmets, bats and photos (all authentic) — the whole 100 yards.

But the Strike Zone also is a place for kids, and adults if they like, to drop in and play their fantasy game of choice — Pokemon, Magic Cards and Yu-Gi-Oh.

“We want to make it an interesting place where kids can come in, have fun and get in touch with other kids,” said owner John Yon, who, along with new partner, Joe Dunn, has moved his business from Novato after a decade in Marin County.

Yon brought along with him a sizable following from Marin, and others are quickly discovering his new location, helped by a grand opening that featured a visit by San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik and his wife.

“We had a real good turnout,” Yon noted. “Panik was really good with the kids. Our grand opening gave us a lot of exposure.”

Yon said more celebrity signings are planned in the future, pointing out that while the Strike Zone offers the interactive games and welcomes players of all ages, it is also very much a sports card and memorabilia store.

“We see a lot of adults who were collectors when they were kids and lost their cards, and are starting over,” he said. It is a place where visitors find all manner of signed balls, bats, helmets and more, along with an array of autographed photos.

Yon has been baseball-card collecting since he was in junior high school, when a coach invited him to a card show, and he was quickly hooked.

One thing led to another and pretty quickly he had his own business.

For a man who is passionate about American sports, Yon has quite a background. His parents are from Canton, China, but emigrated to Lima, Peru, where they raised their four children, including John, who came to the United States when he was 9.

He immediately took to U.S. sports like baseball, football and basketball, a passion that led to the opening of the Strike Zone in 1998.

He said the move to Petaluma was a business decision.

“I liked Novato. I made a lot of friends there, but I needed a better location,” he explained.

Dunn, a former restaurant owner, made the move to Petaluma possible by partnering with Yon.

“I’ve always enjoyed sports, and I was bored sitting at home,” Dunn said. “John I just clicked. John is very knowledgeable about the business and he works very well with the kids. He speaks their language.”

More than an investor, Dunn is a working partner.

“John used to work six days a week and do everything,” Dunn said. “Now he doesn’t have to be in the store every day.”

“It is nice to take some time off,” Yon said. “With a partner, I don’t have to be here all the time.”

Located at 155 Kentucky St. in the heart of downtown Petaluma, the partners feel they are perfectly located to serve both their dedicated friends and customers and attract newcomers interested in either the sports cards and memorabilia or the games.

For kids, it is a place to hang out. For adults, it is a place to be a kid again.