Struggle through college, earn your degree and get to work. That’s exactly what Jameel Mohammed did. Little did he know that a decade later his life would take a crazy turn.
After earning two diplomas from the University of Florida and beginning a career in health sciences, he and his wife took a big risk. They left their comfortable jobs and turned their late night hobby into a full-time job.
The Mohammeds became card shop owners.
Mohammed, 38, graduated from the University of Florida in 2008, with a Bachelor’s Degree in health science. One year later, he earned a Master’s Degree in occupational therapy, also at UF. Immediately after graduation, Mohammed worked at a veterans hospital helping patients with combat trauma, traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
“We took a leap of faith,” Mohammed said. “Everyone told us not to do it… We went against the grain and it worked out.”
In June 2018, Mohammed opened The Meelypops Shop, a sports card and trading card game store in Gainesville. Since then, he and his wife, Meredith, have been part of an incredible journey.
The couple have signed contracts with the biggest manufacturers in the business, transformed their brand during the card boom in 2020 and met incredible athletes and influencers along the way.
Entering the Hobby
The 38-year-old Mohammed was born in California, but grew up in St. Louis. “That was what got me into sports cards,” he said. “I was following the St. Louis Cardinals.” He later moved to Rockledge, Florida, when he was in the third grade and remained there until he was graduated from high school.
“The… late 80’s early 90’s baseball Cardinals was what got me into it,” he said.
One day, Mohammed’s mother came home with a 1991 Topps baseball complete set. He thought it was cool to have cards of his heroes growing up.
Mohammed is the son of an English mother and a Trinidadian father. He came from challenging times and said he learned how to be a hard worker from his parents.
Starting the Business
Mohammed didn’t begin to take sports cards seriously until he had his first job after graduating.
The Mohammeds started on eBay. They decided to call their account The Meelypops Shop.
“The name is an old nickname,” he said. Growing up, his mother and uncle would call him Meely. “My English uncle… would always say ‘Meelypops!’ whenever I scored a goal or did something unique.”
Mohammed even used his nickname as his first email address. He still uses that same email today.
“The Meelypops Shop was kind of a joke at first,” the card shop owner said. “We created a website… where we started a duo inventory management system listing on both platforms.”
Mohammed would then go to card shows. His goal was to find cards he could buy, grade, then flip for a profit.
Grading cards is important to ensure the authenticity of a card and to protect it. The higher the grade, the more value the card has. A graded card can be worth more than an ungraded raw card if it grades high.
“We had an eBay room in our house in the early 2010s,” he said. “We were shipping every single day after we came back from work. I’d be working at night listing and going to shows during the weekends.
In July 2015, Mohammed went to the national card show in Rosemont, Illinois, and was very successful. When he went back home, he thought to himself, “If we can do that show… and make money, then there’s no reason why we can’t do well in this hobby.”
Opening Up Shop
The decision to open up a physical store was not instantly welcomed with open arms by Mohammed’s friends and family.
“They knew we had master degrees and good jobs,” he said. “They always want you to have the steady income.”
People he knew from the hobby also doubted him. They didn’t think Mohammed could sustain it even though he proved that he could do it at the national level.
He highlights how his family still wanted him to pursue his dreams and be happy.
“The cliche is do what you love,” Mohammed said. “Well, I get to open cards [and] talk sports.
Mohammed mentioned how people at card shows would say, “Oh, there’s that Meelypops guy,” and “there’s Meelypops.” He likes how people associate him with the whole brand.
“There’s something that is recognizable about that beyond what gets lost when I look at the sea of banners with… very bland names,” he said “There’s nothing wrong with that, but for us it stuck.”
Building a Community
When opening up the shop, Mohammed wanted to make sure anyone who walked into his store felt welcomed.
Longtime customer Bill Schmit, first went to the shop two weeks after it opened.
Schmit, 73, says the card shop owner is, “attentive, he’s inclusive, he makes you feel like you’re part of the store and he values you as a customer.”
Mohammed has even given the 73-year-old a nickname. He calls Schmit the ‘General Manager’ because of how long he has been a customer at the store.
Cade Cummings, a collector and father, appreciates the Meelypops Shop community.
Cummings, 31, walked into the store one day to collect Pokémon cards with his son, Myles. “It had a family atmosphere in it,” he said. “My son was welcomed instantly and we fell in love with it after that.”
Myles, 8, is shy when it comes to talking to people. His father explained how he completely transforms as soon as he enters the store.
Cummings calls the shop his and his son’s “home away from home.”
Father and collector Freddie Wehbe had great things to say about the card shop owner. Wehbe, 57, met Jameel in 2019. He wanted to get his two sons Ronnie, 15, and Dany, 12, into card collecting.
“He is very, very good at making sure the industry is growing and that kids get involved,” Wehbe said. “It’s great to see a venue where kids can learn not only about collecting, but also about investments.
Wehbe was surprised at how well Mohammed treated him and his kids. He praises the business owner for helping his children build up their respective collections.
“There’s one thing about managing a business, but there’s another thing about living the business and growing the business,” Wehbe said. “They don’t get the credit they deserve.”
Jameel and Meredith use their business as a way to help the community. Not only do they love living in Gainesville, but they are present in their community.
The Mohammeds are very active with Ignite Church, One More Child and the Mariano Rivera foundation. They participate in helping youth who have been orphaned after turning 18.
“We care a lot about the community,” Mohammed said. “We care a lot about the people. There are a lot of people in need. God has really blessed us with opportunities.”
The Covid Boom
In March 2020, like many other businesses, The Meelypops Shop was forced to close. But Mohammed was determined to make sure his shop wouldn’t be shut down for good.
“It was confusion that morphed into a necessity to pivot,” he said. “Once we pivoted we realized we were going to be successful.”
Since Mohammed understood he couldn’t reach his customers’ needs inside the store, he did the next best thing: Reach them in their homes.
The Meelypops Shop employees went on the business’ Instagram page at the store and offered customers an opportunity to purchase cards and sealed boxes from the shop.
“It worked out pretty well, but eventually it just became this madness of sales, so we called it Meelypops Madness,” Mohammed said. “We had hundreds of people joining these lives. We had NFL players, we had … big influencers in the sports card world. It was awesome.”
The shop had a chance to capitalize on profits by raising the prices of their product to the prices of their competitors, but they didn’t. Mohammed raised them just enough where he made a nice profit, but the customer still has an opportunity to afford the item.
“We stayed true to [ourselves], we weren’t greedy. I think that propelled us to where we are today,” he said.
Even other shop owners are impressed with how successful the Mohammeds have been in such a short amount of time.
Alan Narz, owner of Big League Cards in Orlando, had nothing but praise for Mohammed. He respects how hard the UF graduate has worked on his shop and building his brand.
“He’s grown to be one of the most successful card shop owners in the country,” Narz said. “He’s built Meelypops into a national brand.”
Although Narz has been in the business since 1992, he looks to Mohammed for guidance.
“He bleeds cards,” he said. “It’s in his blood.”
Many athletes and celebrities have stopped by The Meelypops Shop to do private signings for fans.
One of the most popular athletes to have participated in this is former University of Florida quarterback and the fourth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, Anthony Richardson.
Mohammed developed a great relationship with Richardson. He praised the Gator legend’s work ethic and character.
Earlier this year, the 2023 NFLPA Rookie Premiere took place in the Los Angeles Coliseum in southern California. Panini America (a trading card site) invited the store owner to the event.
During the event, Jameel was able to talk to Richardson. “He said ‘Jameel, how do I look? I’m a NFL quarterback now.’”
Mohammed replied: “You look great man.”