AnimeChicago’s Spotlight interviews highlight local organization leaders, artists and personalities. We’re chatting Mary Warren, one-half of Nakama Toys, Chicago’s newest toy store featuring anime, video game, kaiju, vinyl, gashapon, and other exclusive collectables from Japan.
AC: Who is part of the team?
MW: Husband and wife team Mary and Bryan Warren, the head honcho’s, the big cheeses, and toy hunters extraordinaire.
AC: How did Nakama Toys grow from an idea to a store?
MW: A store was always the final goal. Nakama Toys started out as a blog, we were seeing all these amazing anime, video game, and tokusatsu toys that we wanted, but couldn’t collect due to room, money, etc. So we wanted to at least have a place to talk about them, and Nakama Toys was born. From there we started an online store and started on local conventions 3 years ago. Finally in March, we decided to start looking for a spot to open our toy store.
AC: What makes Nakama Toys different from an average toy store, or other collector stores?
MW: The average toy store focuses on American Licenses with a smattering of Anime, Video Game, and Tokusatsu toys. Our toy store is unique in that it focuses on exports directly from Japan, instead of finding 1-2 Godzilla or Sailor Moon Toys, you will find a wall of selection of new and old licenses and characters. Also we have the biggest selection of anime-related Gashapon in Chicago. Most other stores in the area focus on second hand or used while we are focusing on new releases. Yes, some toys are from old licenses like Guyver, Evangelion, or Sailor Moon, but they are all new toys from some of the best manufactures from Japan including Tamashii Nations, Kotobukiya, and Good Smile.
AC: How have you connected with Japanese toy collectors in Chicago?
MW: We try to talk to every customer that comes into the store and when someone comes to our booth at cons, we really try and remember faces. Everyone in Chicago has been super supportive and nice. Every time we hear a gasp or see a reaction to a toy, we try to interact and see exactly why they are excited. We also try to reach out to the community through social media including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The community has been great!
AC: What else is in the works?
MW: We’ve always got something in the works. We just had our first quiz night in the store and it was a lot of fun. We’re continuing our relationship with Kaiju Big Battel, which is run by a huge fan of Tokusatsu and you can tell by watching giant monsters fight. We plan to have a DVD release party for the Kaiju Big Battel Chicago show sometime late this month. We’re also planning to have a pizza party for our Revoltech Ninja Turtles release in October. We hope to do something fun at least twice a month and would LOVE to coordinate with anime, video game, and tokusatsu groups. Of course, we will be at all our favorite cons in 2015: C2E2, Anime Central, Anime Midwest, and G-Fest.
AC: Any tips for aspiring business owners?
MW: Be prepared for highs and lows. The realization that you know nothing, Jon Snow. Everything is a surprise but focus on what you love about it. For us, it has always been talking to customers. That is the best thing we get to do at the store or at cons.
AC: How can AnimeChicago readers support Nakama Toys?
MW: Come out to the store for yourself and tell your friends! We’re located at 2504 N California in Logan Square. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and come to our events!
Thanks for the interview, Mary! AnimeChicago attended Nakama’s grand opening a few weeks ago. Check out photos from the event!