Wichita comic shops help customers embrace their inner nerd
Comic book store owners in Wichita say the pandemic is causing more people to nerd out.
Walking into Mopig’s Collectibles and Custom Paint is like opening a door to your childhood — or many childhoods.
Toys and memorabilia from just about any movie, cartoon or video game you can imagine from the last few decades fill the walls and glass display cases.
A multi-colored mural spans the wall behind the counter, depicting My Pet Monster – the first toy that owner Anthony “Mopar” Nash can remember really wanting as a kid, and one that embodies his vision for the store.
“I never got one when I was a kid ‘cause they were super expensive. And then they got really rare,” Mopar said. “It took me like 25 years to find one, finally. And it’s like one of my favorite, favorite toys.”
“Mopar” is a nickname his wife, Stephanie, gave him when they were teenagers. “Mopig’s” is a combination of his nickname and his wife’s former shop name, Pigments Presents. She also sells prints of her art out of the store.
Mopar will tell you his shop is exactly the kind of place he wished he could have hung out as a kid.
Hip-hop music from the ‘90s plays softly over the speakers, and movies from the same era play on mute on a TV.
On the floor are painted cracks and lava - to remind you of the times as a kid you pretended the floor was, well, hot lava.
Mopar opened the store in south Wichita in August last year, just off the highway interchange on 47th Street. Prior to opening Mopig’s, he and his wife ran pop-up shops at conventions as a side gig.
Opening an in-person shop during a pandemic may seem like a risk. But because of the pandemic, Mopar said a lot more people seem to be nerding out – over comics, trading cards, retro video games and more.
“And all the news reports of Pokemon cards selling for $50,000 and stuff like that,” he said. “It gets people– Their brain starts working, like, ‘Well I have some of that somewhere.’”
Brian “Bam” Hunter is seeing the same trend. He’s the co-owner of Wizards Asylum, which primarily sells trading cards, comics and tabletop games.
While his store has seen more interest in cards and board games during the pandemic, it has had to make several adjustments to how it does business.
For starters, Bam said the shop has had to modify or stop hosting some of its events – like tournaments, game nights, and launch parties for new releases.
“I have to work on shifting back to what we were doing at some point, but not everybody’s there yet,” he said.
The store now offers curbside pickup and other accommodations for customers who aren’t ready for the regular comic store experience.
And just like in food and retail, many in the comics and games industry are running into supply chain issues.
Bam said it can sometimes be a hassle to get certain products. Other times, customers can’t get new items on their expected release dates.
Because of the challenges presented by the pandemic, Bam said it’s important for people in the industry to be flexible.
“If you’re going to stick to your guns and just do business the way you’ve always done business, you’re probably not going to do as well as you could have done.”