Today, I had an idea. Why not go to the anime mecca of Wisconsin and interact with all the great anime fans there? Why not go to…
(I know the question mark looks out of place, but I wasn’t gonna leave the sentence unfinished.)
Address: 932 E. Rawson Ave., Oak Creek, WI
The Brain Speaks
After 10 hours of mind-numbery at work, I was ready to treat myself to some quality interactions with my fellow otaku rather than my usual “get back to my room and promptly pass out until my alarm wakes me in the morning” routine. After all, anime stores are just like mini-anime-cons but better, right?
So I made the 40-minute trek down from my hotel to fucking Oak Creek, Wisconsin (population: 3,000) to make some great new friends. And as I am a procrastinator, I first set out to grab myself some supper at the classiest establishment in the town: Subway.
After being attended to by the modern-day equivalent of Hodor, I looked for something to wash down the stale bread and almost-meat at the grocery store next-door: Piggly Wiggly (this is actually the name of the chain, I promise you). And while I didn’t find anything worth drinking, I did happen upon some mystery Doritos flavors.
Unfortunately, the flavor I chose to try was not a good one, and my stomach reacted like it was witnessing the second coming of Hadena.
Gif somewhat related.
Chunks of Doritos in my handsome white-man goatee, I ventured forth into the humble abode that was the Anime Fan Zone, knowing I would still be welcome among my kind.
To my surprise, it wasn’t an anime store at all, but some shitty fucking Magic the Gathering card shop. Ya-fucking-tta.
There was a shelf of anime and a shelf of manga, a number of plushies, a few t-shirt racks… and that pretty made up the anime portion of the place. The rest was just rows and rows of Magic cards and Magic-related accessories, and a few creepy guys playing each other while uttering what I presumed to be the Magic equivalent of “You’ve activated my trap card!”
No Japanese snacks (“we don’t have pocky anymore”), nothing from the past decade that wasn’t released by Funimation… hell, they didn’t even have any anime card protectors (barring two variants of Hayate no Gotoku for some fucked-up reason). And the prices on the shit they did have were way out of line. I mean, who the hell’s gonna pay $20 for fucking Otaku Unite?
It honestly felt like they were trying to make the anime part of their business fail so they’d have an excuse to convert the whole shop into a shrine to normalfag nerds.
All that made me end up thinking about…
How to make a decent anime shop
1. Market-relevant prices
Remember, you’re dealing with fucking nerds here. If you don’t give them an excuse to leave their house, they won’t.
Past a 15% markup for what people can find on Amazon or Rightstuf, nobody sane would pay more than they have to. So why cross your fingers in hopes of finding that one sucker, when decent prices will get people who graduated from high school to open up their wallets?
2. Actually stocking content
More specifically, relevant content. If the only Madoka/Attack on Titan shit you have is one t-shirt of each, you are wasting a massive opportunity to make fat cash on what’s popular.
And if you aren’t stocking any limited editions in a goddamn specialty shop, you are leaving money on the table. I was willing to drop $500 today on stupid shit I don’t need, but left mostly empty-handed. And don’t bullshit me about how that wouldn’t be significant after margin is taken into consideration; I know damn well how much the Aniplex retail price is marked up from how much you pay for it. You have no excuse.
3. Do something interesting
Gimme something that’ll leave enough of a lasting mark to make me wanna come back. Arcade games, a manga library, a karaoke room… I don’t know. Just do something worth remembering and returning for.
And if you can work some sort of community aspect into it, definitely go that route. Even otaku need socializing. You could even sell them deodorant to help with that.
There may be more to running a store than three bullet points, but that would make this article too long, so we’ll pretend there isn’t.
What’s a sunk cost?
Heart heavy with disappointment at what the “Anime Fan Zone” turned out to be, but not wanting to leave empty-handed, I bought two shirts on clearance that I’ll never wear.
I also bought a $3 My Little Pony deck case for one of my brothers, who despises the series. As such, I’m gonna make him use it for his main Magic deck if he wants me to buy any cards for him going forward. Being a big brother is the best.
I think we can all agree the moral of this story is ideas are bad. I’ll try to stop having them.