The boxes are stacked almost to the ceiling and their contents represent less than half of Kevin Hunt’s collection. It’s dizzying, really, to see how many trinkets have been amassed. Yet, it’s totally familiar.
For more than a decade, the 46-year-old Hunt has been stockpiling pop-culture gold and selling it online at auction sites and trade shows. Now, his stash is being organized onto shelves in a storefront at 7511 Madison where he hopes to draw a crowd of hipsters of all ages.
With a plastic wristwatch you can declare yourself a fan of New Kids on the Block, or grab a talking Arnold Schwarzenegger doll from Terminator 2. Hulkamaniacs will rejoice while others finally get their tea party with My Little Pony. Rock concert T-shirts, LPs, thousands of old compact discs and even a weird statue of a young Milton Berle are also to be had.
“Why does anyone buy anything,” Gary Hebner, a longtime friend of Hunt’s and now his business partner, said. “Simple pleasures.”
Hebner and Hunt hope to open the store, Cyklopx, in early April. Prices will range from a few bucks to several hundred, depending on how coveted an item might be. Hunt has a Beatles’ jacket that isn’t likely to make appearance in the store, for example, but he’s shopping it around at about $9,000.
Hunt has been digging through yard sales and online auctions for years building up his inventory, and always, he said, with opening a store in mind. For 20 years he worked in music retail, but never saw a store that carried the music, the clothes and the toys in one place.
“I go to a garage sale and my car would just be filled with stuff, and people were like, ‘what the heck?'” Hunt said of his collection. “But once they see it, they get it.”
There have been moments when his spending priorities were skewed, said Hunt, but a treasure hunter has to be ready to open his wallet. At a particularly broke period of his life, Hunt said he went to a garage sale held to benefit a school and found an entire collection of unopened Transformers. He couldn’t help himself and bought them all.
“There were so many, you know,” Hunt said. “I wasn’t fiscally prepared for what was about to happen.”
For Hebner, also 46, this is an entirely different experience. Most recently, he worked as a furniture buyer after spending years managing capital campaigns for various clients. He had no hand in amassing the toys and obscure T-shirts, but his friendship with Hunt goes back to when they were teenagers.
The hardest part of getting the store organized, said Hebner, is that so many stories from yesteryear have to be told as they sift through the boxes.
Like the duo behind Cyklopx, Ivy Ippolito made the made the leap from running an online business to opening a storefront on Madison. Ippolito’s shop, Girlicious, opened almost five years ago and is directly across the street from Cyklopx.
She hasn’t met her new neighbors yet, but Ippolito said the window displays are definitely interesting and she’s excited to see new life in a tough economy. She suggested that anyone making the transition from the Web should continue to maintain a presence in their online community to both promote and supplement the expansion. Especially now that consumers are doing less shopping, the Internet is key, said Ippolito.
“They’ll do fine if they keep selling online,” she said.
Hunt expects to pull customers from Chicago, but is also planning to target teenagers and 20-somethings in the near west suburbs. Because he still has so many items in storage, Hunt said he plans to continue selling online and at trade shows.
The store is expected to open in early April, though no firm date has been set.