Co-founder Todd Fisher took Central Florida Top 5 on an exclusive tour of the first ever Gods & Monsters which opens on June 13th at the growing Artegon Marketplace! This new, revolutionary pop culture retail experience (and soon to be a not-at-all-secret cool geek headquarters) has been generating quite a buzz online with both nerds and n00bs. Unlike a third of our new Top 5 writers, I was unfamiliar with ‘geek culture’ before going in and honestly a little intimidated! Thankfully Todd Fisher, his business partner Anna and Mr. Online Sales Guy were very welcoming, friendly and super excited to show us around the space.
Many may be familiar with the phrase (or even song by Lana Del Rey) ‘Gods and Monsters’ in one way or another, but how did Orlando’s Gods & Monsters come to be? “Anna, my partner, and I have been in the retail genre game for… ever! I helped run ACME Superstore in Longwood for almost fifteen years, and she’s done her part in the local art community running galleries for just as long,” Todd said.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for both. “It was weird, we both got out of our current jobs at the same time an saw the potential for a team up. Just like in the comic books, ‘Wondertwin powers activate!’ She saw the potential of what I could bring to the table, and I saw the same. We decided to join forces and try something a little different than what a lot of places are currently bringing to market. A classier version of the current comic book store model.”
“It’s a nearly 20,000 square foot space. It’s an enormous amount of space. We were originally looking at something much, much smaller and, frankly, more manageable… maybe 7,000 square foot. This awesome space kind of fell into our lap at a great deal and we couldn’t pass it up. It was too good to not to take the shot. I really think that the way we’re approaching it – with four separate business models under one roof – I think it can work.”
Top 5 things to expect from the Gods & Monsters Grand Opening event on June 13th?
Being an infrequent or first time visitor to such a place might make one feel like an outsider. Not so with Gods & Monsters. Everyone is welcome! They hope to be a community hub for all, whether you may be a reader, gamer, collector, fanboy or fangirl. “With a place like us and what we’re about is ALL about community,” Todd says. “Especially in the last several years, we’ve seen a huge upswing in the nerd community being more comfortable with itself. With it being such a staple on tv programming and movies, comic books are cool! When I was in elementary school it was decidedly uncool to be into comics and toys and all that stuff.”
What happened? What event over time caused such a Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion nerdaissance? “Something happened in the last twenty years or so that really galvanized the nerd community and brought us together. ‘In our numbers we are stronger,’ “ Todd explains. “They say the geek shall inherit the Earth and… here we are. Obviously we see a potential to bring a community together and, hopefully, that translates to prosperity. It’s symbiotic; I think that we can bring them something and they can keep us afloat to keep giving them things. I’m very hopeful!”
The plight of the small business owner is not lost on the team at Gods and Monsters. “It’s been nothing but constant frustration,” Todd says with a laugh.“We were set to open back in November but every kind of possible permitting issue or stumbling block – every possible thing that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. Murphy’s Law… what’s that Nietzsche quote? ‘Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?’ I am SO POWERFUL right now!”
Tour time! If you can’t bear spoilers, DO NOT READ FURTHER. With 20,000 square feet under their ultility belts, they’ve got a ton of space to fill with nerdy goodness. This is a complete guided tour, so if you have fifteen minutes to spare, watch the video below for the turn-by-turn tour of the entire space front to back!
Turning back around, to the right you will see an Arkham Asylum themed register area. Even the experience in checkout will have really cool interactive components, which we won’t spoil for you. (Ok, it’s REALLY cool and Todd describes it in more detail in the video around the six minute mark.)
In the middle of Gods and Monsters lives a vast retail staging area with lit showcases, toy kiosks and more. “We’ll have your toys, your statues, Hot Toys, Sideshow, Kotobukiya… I’m trying to get the stuff that not every place locally carries, to be that destination for the higher end stuff. And, to showcase that stuff with an eye towards respect that I think that product deserves. A lot of this stuff is art. This will give people an opportunity to see it in good lighting, properly displayed and the bonus is you can take that stuff home with you. That could be IN your home.”
Next is the Gotham themed New Comics and Kids section, both of which will take up a good portion of the right side wall. “We’ll have as wide a selection as I can muster of trade paperbacks on these really awesome (themed) pillar displays.”
Toward the back of the store is The Offworld L.O.U.N.G.E, a concession bar inspired by the Ridley Scott film BladeRunner. “At the beginning of the film he (Harrison Ford as Decker) is getting noodles at the White Dragon Noodle Bar, and we’re trying to theme it as closely to that as we can.” Yes, a noodle bar is also planned!
On the back wall will be a DJ booth/AV section for store atmosphere. Also, in this back section of the store will be themed gaming rooms (three sci-fi, three fantasy), a stage setup with projection and table seating for the concession area. A wall will separate this area from the front of the store and will have mood lighting that can be customized to any tournament, event, concert or gathering.
On the back left hand side of Gods and Monsters will live a fantasy themed gaming retail area that will be fully stocked with cards, dice and other gaming accessories. A large apparel section will neighbor this area; just look for the really cool cosmos, space themed mural. “Not a whole lot of places I find put a lot of money or floor space into an apparel section, and I think… people need clothes. I’m a big fan,” Todd says dryly. A big selection of hats, logo tees, socks and maybe even pajamas will go here.
To the left of the apparel section will be two VIP rooms; one fantasy themed (closer to the gaming area), one sci-fi themed (closer to the side entrance). What’s that you say? A second entrance? Yep! “With the addition of a separate, outside entrance we can do our midnight openings, we can stay open late. Once our concession area opens in January or February, we’ll have beer and wine and can do late night events. We’re very excited about that!” (Oh, and you’ll enter the VIP rooms through a full size TARDIS from Doctor Who!)
Heading back to the front entrance is a 1,000 foot ‘high end nerd gallery’ called The Transmetropolitan Gallery, which will showcase original artwork, high value toys, comics and memorabilia. Comic and graphic novel readers will recognize two of the co-owners – Warren Ellis, after whom the gallery is named, and Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman series among many other works.
Also with this space comes a great opportunity for Central Florida artists to showcase their work. “We will be accepting submissions to put before a jury to vote on which pieces each month go up. Unless it’s a solo show, or celebrity comic artist show, which we’re planning to do several times a year. Not really (any) restrictions on medium types,” says Anna Young, Co-Founder of Gods & Monsters and Curator of the gallery.
We had to leave you with this great thought from Todd. If there’s one unforgettable takeaway from this post, this is definitely it: “Even if you’ve never picked up a comic in your life, we’re going to make sure – if we have to just give it to you – that you’re going to leave with a comic book in your hand. I want every day to be like Free Comic Book Day,” Todd shares. “It’s not always about the money. It’s not always about taking home a paycheck. It’s about sharing this. It’s about opening up (to) people who haven’t been exposed to this or don’t know the joy of opening up a comic book… or just don’t ‘get’ it. I want them to ‘get’ it. Our mission in all of this is to turn people on to comics, toys and to just show off the space and say ‘Look what you’ve been missing! Come! Let me show you this cool thing!‘”
Note to Artists: Submissions may be sent online or through Gods & Monsters’ Facebook page or by emailing anna(at)godmonsters.com with photos and info for the work submitted.
Gods & Monsters is located at 5250 International Drive, Suite E8, Orlando, FL 32819 (inside Artegon Marketplace).