It all started with a hobby and a smoke break.
A convention brought Anthony Locke and Shane Mack together several years ago in “some sort of room party or something.” Locke had been frequenting anime conventions for years and Mack was fairly new to the scene.
That chance encounter in 2008 eventually led to a shared dream. The two had visions of bringing all their favorite anime things to a store year-round so fans wouldn’t have to wait until the next convention to get what they wanted.
But it wasn’t until one of Mack’s breaks from his job at Flower Child that the store started to become a reality.
He would take his cigarettes down the street a few paces to Maotef Gifts so he could talk to Todd Fry, the owner.
“I noticed one day he had this big empty room back here that didn’t have anything in it and at the time, we were thinking about doing this business,” Mack said. “So I said, ‘Is it OK if we bring an arcade machine or two in here and split the profit with you?’”
Fry liked the idea and when Locke and Mack started bringing in some of their anime products to sell along with the machines, Gotcha Gachapon—and a partnership between the two stores—was born.
“He’s getting a lot of attention from us being in here and we’re getting a place to kind of evaluate our demographic,” Mack explained. “So it’s really a win-win.”
It’s also helped the co-owners hone in on what people really want, enabling them to customize their orders.
Only a month since they’ve begun mixing anime collectibles in with Fry’s candles, the two co-owners are itching to expand.
“We’ve been having trouble keeping things in stock,” Locke said. “We had stuff, but within hours we were squeezing things together to try and make it look more full because everything was gone.”
And while the concept has been a success, it’s also been a little confusing for customers having two stores mixed together.
So Locke and Mack launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a move into their own store. They want more room for their large arcade games that won’t fit in the space right now (currently they just have Police 911, a shooting game that tracks your movement, and Percussion Master, a rhythm drum game, with more waiting to come in). And perhaps most importantly, they want to have more gachapons.
The gachapons are the inspiration behind the store and the thing Locke and Mack said makes their store special.
They’re similar to American quarter machines that deposit a pod with a small prize in it, but have higher quality products and cost $1. The word is an onomatopoeia—“gacha” is the sound the crank makes when you insert money and “pon” describes the pod falling out of the machine and into the slot where a customer can pick it up—and they’ve been popular throughout the first month of business.
“We have over twice as many machines that we’d like to fill up with product, but we have nowhere to put them,” Mack said.
The two are hoping to raise $15,000 through their Kickstarter to help them find a new space, but the money from the fundraising would also go toward getting more products in the store.
It’s a challenge getting things from Japan. Some of the manufacturers who make the collectibles they want aren’t allowed to sell them in the U.S., so they have to go through third-party vendors to get what they’re looking for.
“An everyday struggle, I would say, trying to keep in contact with our vendors and make sure everything is going right and things get in shipping window for weeks, months,” Locke said.
Even amid the small space and increasing demand, the two co-owners are happy their store has been a success so far. “Looks like Pokémon is about out,” Locke said while he peered into a gachapon machine.