Collectible toys and memorabilia are one of the few markets going today that appears to be recession-proof; while more and more people are foregoing that expensive latte or pair of designer jeans, they might not think twice about plunking down the dough to get that Captain Kirk figure.
One could argue that clinging to the child in all of us gives one an all-too-brief respite from the multitude of stresses of modern living, but whatever the reason for the current memorabilia craze, Alex Kuvish, owner of at 5288 Merrick Road, is reaping the benefits.
"We’re known as the Star Wars headquarters of Long Island...we have more than anybody else,” he said. “I pride myself on not carrying junk...everything I have is pretty much pristine. That’s how I like my goods.”
Kuvish had previously worked in retail, at points owning a greeting card and two video stores. However, as an avid memorabilia collector all his life, he decided it was time to get into a business that he truly loved. The first step was finding the right location.
"I went looking for a while for a nice area to open up in," he said. "When I saw how nice this community was, and I found a location I was happy with- I figured Merrick Road was pretty good as far as being a busy hub, so I decided to give it a shot."
Among the vast array of merchandise carried by Fantastic Toyage are action figures, toys, playsets, statues, prop replicas, dolls, model kits, in addition to much, much more. But while Kuvish does the majority of his business via walk-in customers, he's wary of the negative effect that the growing internet shopping boom is having on local stores.
"People like to shop online because of convenience," he said. "But what they need to realize is that when they do that, the mom and pop stores suffer. And that's why you have so many empty stores these days. And unless people are happy with that kind of blight in their neighborhood, I personally think they should go to their local stores...they'll be helping out people with families, people who live in the community."
Looking to stand out from similarly-themed establishments, Kuvish broke from the pack by offering services unique to the collectable field, such as free layaway, which has enabled customers who are tightening their belts to still be able to afford that Star Wars Boba Fett bust they've been eyeing in the display case. It's part of a strategy that Kuvish believes has enabled his business to thrive in an economy where many are closing up for good.
"In today's time, with the recession that we're in, you have to be a chameleon and adapt to the situation at hand," he said. "Either you adjust, or you wind up on the wayside. A lot of this stuff really takes off on the secondary market, which makes it a good investment. It's outperforming almost everything except precious metals at this point."
Kuvish’s business has thrived to the point that in February of this year, he took over the store next to his, knocking down part of the connecting wall and transforming it into a showroom of sorts.
"I was tripping over myself here," he said. "I wanted to bring more merchandise in, and I didn't have the space to display it properly. Thankfully, I'm doing well enough that I was able to do that...I've finally achieved my goals with this store."
One thing Kuvish believes is that, if you do business the right way, opportunities open up on their own.
"The thing I like best about my business is that the people who walk in my door are just like me," he said. "We all share the same interests, and I've made some good friendships here. I find that, if you treat people right and work hard to do the right thing, you'll come a long way."