SEMINOLE – Two decades ago, Neil Johnson had a successful career coordinating trucking and shipping orders. He lived a comfortable, happy life, but it wasn’t something he was truly passionate about.

So, he decided to delve into his real love, comic books, on the side. He took over the back room at Wilson’s Book World in St. Petersburg to sell comics.

It wasn’t long before he outgrew this space, though. In 1989, he opened his own shop, Emerald City Comics & Collectibles in St. Petersburg.

The response to that space was so amazing, said Darryl Blaker, Emerald City marketing director, that Johnson expanded from his initial tiny space (“You could hardly put items on display or have events there, it was so small,” Blaker said) to a larger location, and eventually opened a second shop in Clearwater in 1994.

As both stores continued to thrive, it became obvious that Johnson still didn’t have enough space. So, in 2013, he combined both stores to create a pop culture mega store in the Pinellas Park area at 4902 113th Ave. N. off 49th Street North.

The merger “made sense,” Blaker said. It streamlined costs, as Johnson would only need to pay rent for one location. He also substantially increased his square footage – the new space was double the size of his original Seminole and Clearwater stores combined.

This space elevated Emerald City, Blaker said. Not only was there more room for different types of merchandise – including comic book-related art, vintage comics and more collectible figures – but now they could host more elaborate events.

Emerald City is known for its events, which range from cosplay gatherings to release parties, and author and artist meet and greets.

The shop also works with the community as much as possible, particularly with schools, youth organizations, libraries and museums. Often, the shop will bring cosplayers or free comics to nearby schools, including Pinellas Park Middle School, to entice children to read, Blaker said.

Pop culture and comic book fans can follow Emerald City on Facebook to keep up with the shop’s schedule and offerings, he added.

“Every Saturday and Sunday we have something going on,” he said. “Even some weekdays.”

Two big events coming up are a visit by Superman Santa on Saturday, Dec. 16, and Star Wars Day, planned for Saturday, Dec. 23, in celebration of the release of the Star Wars franchise movie.