A new docuseries will spotlight toy store owners around the world as they deal with the effects of coronavirus and work to adjust, evolve, and stay afloat – and Kokomo Toys & Collectibles will be one of the stores featured.
Set to air on Amazon Prime Video late this month, the show, “A Toy Store Near You,” is being produced by The Nacelle Company, the team behind Netflix’s popular shows “The Toys that Made Us” and “The Movies that Made Us.” Kokomo Toys & Collectibles will be featured within the first 10 episodes released.
“These (toy stores) are labors of love and passion projects, and hope and dreams have gone into these stores,” said Richard Mayerik, a producer of the show. “Whether or not you’re a toy collector, I think this is a universally-relatable story about small business in the country and in the world really because we have stores in Mexico City, Japan, Netherlands. So it’s something I think everyone is experiencing together and can take something away from.”
The idea of the show came about as many of the company’s employees are “die-hard” toy collectors themselves. Mayerik said he realized a lot of the independently-run stores were in jeopardy if the quarantine went on for any amount of time. The purpose of the show, he said, serves two purposes.
“We definitely want to give as much exposure and acknowledgment to all of these stores as possible and let people out there know that they’re still operating in some capacity or another, whether it was online sales or curbside,” he said. “But furthermore, when things go back to normal, people are out and about, and they know these stores exist and that these stores are community hubs. It goes beyond just the toys that they sell. It’s a connection, and friendships that are made in these stores as well.”
To further help the toy stores that are featured, The Nacelle Company will be redirecting most of any proceeds made back to those stores.
Because of the pandemic, filming for this docuseries was done differently. Each store owner was required to shoot their own footage, something Mayerik said made the project even more special as it was a collaboration.
“It’s a new frontier for us doing this show because usually when we do a show like this … for Netflix and the shows we’re doing for Disney+, we go out and shoot all of the stuff ourselves,” Mayerik said. “We have our story producers in the field to get everything we need, and then we go back to Los Angeles and put it all together. Since we can’t physically do that with this show, it’s all self-shot by all of the store owners, so it’s a very collaborative effort and uncharted territory for us. We’ve been working with all of these respective store owners and basically helping teach them how to shoot a television show.”
Mike Dukes, who works for the City of Kokomo’s KGOV2, filmed all of the footage for Kokomo Toys & Collectibles.
Todd Jordan, who owns Kokomo Toys & Collectibles with his wife, Amber Jordan, said it was an honor to be chosen for the show. He received an email from the producer, asking him to partake. Mayerik said he’s known of Kokomo Toys & Collectibles for a while, so when the idea to make the docuseries came up, he immediately thought of the Kokomo toy store.
A native of Portage, Ind., and a toy lover, Mayerik already had moved to Los Angeles by the time Kokomo Toys & Collectibles opened in 2014, but he said word spread quickly to his family up in northwest Indiana of the new vintage toy store. Now, every time Mayerik comes home for the holidays, he makes an effort to visit the toy store. The first time he did, he said he was “completely floored and blown away.”
“We spent about two hours in the store going through everything,” Mayerik said. “Every time I’m home for any amount of time since then I always try to make a point to get down there and pay them a visit.”
The store is home to vintage action figures from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s and features aisles of popular action figures like Transformers, G.I. Joe, He-Man, and Star Wars and playsets and vehicles to accompany them. But not everything is vintage. Customers also can find toys popular today, as well as other fun toys and gadgets.
Jordan said he wanted to be a part of the docuseries to not only share his love and passion for toys but also to showcase his community in the hopes of attracting more tourism to the City of Firsts.
When producers asked him to detail how COVID-19 has affected his community and business, he focused on the resiliency of both.
“We were able to highlight not only how Kokomo has overcome tornados and floods but showcase how we step up to the plate with the ventilators being made at GM,” Jordan said. “It was exciting for us to be able to tell that story of how resilient and compassionate we are as a community. We also showed a lot of curbside and online orders, along with a top 10 toys of all time that we enjoy here at the store.”
It hasn’t been all rainbows for the toy store owners, though. When the Jordans were told they had to close their store due to the pandemic, Jordan said it was “scary” at first with it being his family’s only source of income. Immediately he worked to find ways to mitigate the negative impact. He thanked the City of Kokomo and the Chamber of Commerce for offering small business assistance, which proved to be a “huge help.”
One of the hardest parts to him was winding down the storefront, as the toy store has functioned as a tourist destination for over 12 years now, he said.
“With a business model of attracting customers from all over the Midwest to visit our beautiful downtown, there was a long two- to three-week period of answering phones and emails throughout each day and using social media to make sure people didn’t travel four hours to see us closed,” he said.
Jordan said it was a massive undertaking to slow down his “juggernaut advertising machine” and realized it will be even more challenging to restart it.
The toy store owner was hopeful about the future and thanked all of the customers who have continued to purchase from the store during the shutdown.
“Our business was thankfully able to survive thanks to the support of the community and our online sales. We had a large amount of support from the other stores here on Geek Street through live Facebook sales and going curbside service,” Jordan said.
Look for “A Toy Store Near You” later this month on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Vimeo.