1/6th Spotlight - Toy Anxiety

Welcome to the latest installment of '1/6th Spotlight', where we focus on your favourite retailers, what goes on behind the scenes and what it takes to be a successful retailer of 1/6th toys and collectables.  In this months edition, we're speaking to US retailer based in Phoenix, AZ - Toy Anxiety.

 Tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Dan Summers, and I am currently the manager of Toy Anxiety.  I handle many aspects of the business including product ordering, buying collections in store and online, handling and packing internet orders, handling nearly all the email that comes in, I help a bit with our EBay sales, and I photograph and process all of the pictures that go on our website. 

 What led to starting Toy Anxiety?

First, though I’m the interviewee, Ron Lewis is the owner of Toy Anxiety and I am speaking on his behalf as much as I am for myself.  When his son was younger, the pair of them enjoyed collecting vintage Star Wars toys.  Their collection grew from all the buying and trading they had been doing that they needed a permanent outlet to buy and sell.  Remember, EBay and Internet sales were not an option at this point in time, so in 1993 a little store called Empire of Toys opened in a small strip mall in Phoenix Arizona.  Though Ron’s son grew out of collecting as he moved into his adulthood, the store continued to grow with the increasing popularity of Vintage Star Wars toys and with the new Star Wars toys that started to hit the shelves in the early to mid 1990’s.  I joined the crew around 1995.  Towards the end of the decade, after the Empire had established its website, an online business called Empire Industries sent out Cease and Desist orders to any online toy business with a name featuring the word Empire because they wanted all the domains to link to them (note that this Greedy corporation eventually filed for bankruptcy and no longer exists – Karma at its best.  With the expense of court fees and lawyers, the Empire, with its tale between its legs, lost its name.  Through a lengthy “Rename the Empire” contest, the new name Toy Anxiety was chosen by Ron and his family.  The name is partially in homage to Ron’s old favourite movie High Anxiety by Mel Brooks.  In addition, Toy Anxiety is what you have when you can’t find that toy you’re looking for.  Toy Anxiety is also what you get when you walk into our large store with an overwhelming amount of inventory.  Toy Anxiety as since moved twice, settling in its current location.  Though we miss the old Empire of Toys name, we’ve embraced Toy Anxiety and will do so for the rest of our existence.  I probably went beyond a simple answer to this question, but thought it would be good to share a bit of our history.

 Do you collect figures yourself, and if so how many have you got?

Yes, but can any collector really say how many they have LOL!  I’m sure it’s in the thousands.  I primarily collect but not limited to, Movie based action figures from NECA, Sideshow and Hot Toys.

 Do you have a ‘bricks and mortar’ store, or is it all web based?

Yes, the store is 2500 square feet packed full of new and used action figures and related collectibles from the 1970’s to present.  Our website is where we focus our 1:6 scale product.

 Where do the majority of your sales come from, inside the US or abroad?

We try to be very friendly and fair to international customers, and therefore have a pretty good balance of US to International sales, though the majority probably is US.

 What figures are you most looking forward to in the near future?

Super7’s Reaction Series.  I can’t wait to have those Alien figures I thought would have never seen the light of day, ever.  Also looking forward to what else they have in store for this series.

What is a top seller at the moment?

Hot Toys and Sideshow 1:6 figures and their parts.

 Can you name three different figures not in production at the moment that you would like to see produced?

Ooh, tough one.  First, from childhood I’ve always been a big fan of Flash Gordon (insert Ted comments here).  I was ecstatic that Biff Bang Pow finally released a series based on the movie.  I was then hugely disappointed that I never got my Vultan before the line was cancelled, so there’s #1.  #2, I collected the entire line of the Sideshow Monty Python 1:6 figures (even have Knight of Ni), but really wanted to see them explore Meaning of Life if not just to have Mr. Creosote and Death.  I currently have someone making me a Death custom.  And for #3, well, so many figures could be named here, but there’s one I had wanted for years, possibly decades that I finally had custom made – Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation.  With my custom, my life is complete ha-ha or should I say ho ho ho.

 What would you like to see more of being produced by the manufacturers?

Given our strong foothold in the 1:6 markets, I really want to see more non military accessory sets.  We’ve even dabbled into some small quantity production custom parts, but really need to go bigger to capture the market.  Shrunken Head Studios’ Bits & Pieces set is exactly what we’d love to see more of, but beyond just the horror market.

 What do you find most challenging about running Toy Anxiety?

Primarily with our web customers, trying to satisfy the demand of some of what we offer and keeping our customers satisfied, well supplied and happy. 

 What do you find most enjoyable about running the business?

When it comes to the 1:6 products we sell online, when people send us or post in one of our forums pictures of the customs they built out of parts we sold them.  In our store, nothing compares to the smiles on kids faces when they got a new toy to take home to play with.  Though we deal with collectibles, we strongly encourage kids of all ages to “Play” with their toys.

 How many people work for the company, and what are their relations to you?

There are currently about 12 people that help out in some capacity from just doing our blog to part and full time positions.  Many of us are customers that turned staff, but most of us are friends outside of the store as well.  Though none of us are actually related, we consider ourselves like family.

 Have you any exciting plans for the future?

Related to my answer to an earlier question, I’d love to start producing small runs of factory made and painted 1:6 accessories, but nothing has quite worked out so far.  It just cost too much more than we can currently afford to do it right. We do have some ideas we might explore yet, but nothing for sure.

 Where do you think the majority of your sales come from, boxed figures or loose parts?

Hands down, loose parts.  When the economy went bad, we were sure we wouldn’t survive, and for all purposes, the physical store didn’t if you look at the local sales.  It is our online 1:6 sales of Hot Toys, Sideshow and some other company’s parts that are responsible for saving the store. 

Where would you like the company to be in five years time?

Thriving both online and locally.  It is still tough in Phoenix, but getting stronger.  It was always our hopes to have more than one location, but that does not seem to be the direction we’re going.  We wish to continue to strengthen our online presence in the customizing community. 

So, I’ve noticed that Toy Anxiety and War-Toys both have a similar address… is there a link between the two? 

More or less.  The original owners of War Toys sold it to Toy Anxiety owner Ron and friend Javier (current owner of War Toys).  Javier primarily ran War Toys, while Ron helped with packing online orders.  Ron is currently parting ways from War Toys (for no particular reason, they’re still friends) for Javier to own exclusively.  We’ve always stayed in the same plaza for convenience, but the businesses are run and operated completely separate of each other. 

And finally, what would you say makes you stand out from the other retailers out there?

In the historic words of Kenner, “We Really Do Care!”.  We put our heart and soul in doing everything we can to satisfy people with our product selection and variety along with our customer service.  We listen to our customers’ constructive comments and will react to them when possible. We offer THE best variety of 1:6 scale parts on the World Wide Web, and will continue to do so as long as we exist.


The Pics


You can visit the Toy Anxiety website here: http://www.toyanxiety.com/



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