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Good Anime Stores in Chicago?

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The short answer is “no.” You can view our list of local retailers which may appeal to anime fans, but they do not meet our criteria for an all-encompassing anime store.

The continual frustrating question is “why not?” A true anime store needs to meet a few criteria to succeed in Chicago:

1) Be accessible via CTA.
Most Chicago anime fans I’ve met either live in the city without a car or live in the suburbs and drive practically everywhere. Parking can be difficult downtown, but it’s far easier to find parking than it is to travel without a car or CTA. Public transit is inexpensive. It also attracts group outings and meetups, making it more suitable for friends or clubs travelling together.

2) Find the right space.
Retailers pay premium for spaces near public transit. Belmont or Lincoln Square can be a great locations beyond the Loop for smaller retail with high volume. Personal safety and store security are also key.

3) Offer anime and Japanese culture expertise.
An anime store owner must know which shows and characters are in demand, how to appeal to a wide range of ages and sub-interests, and how to distinguish bootlegs and rare items. The owner should also be a passionate fan!

4) Focus on non-media offerings and services.
Streaming media provides an excellent compromise for impatient fans, minimalists, and dabblers. Now that Borders is shutting down for good, DVD, BluRay and manga needs will be met online.

So what would entice fans to spend their cash? An anime hangout. Be it manga café, small theater venue, unique retail for cosplay and merchandised goods, or a combination of all these things. You can’t download a plushie! Retail owners who are active in the community and encourage its growth seem to be doing well because their customers want them to succeed. This niche service model sustains places like Rotofugi, Challengers, and Ignite Network.

So what’s part of your anime store wish list?