Joem Figueroa, manager and co-owner of the Freaky Wizard toy store on Wyndham Street, has always loved to share his toys but he didn’t have a lot of opportunities to do that when he was a kid.
“I am the youngest of 11 siblings born and raised on a farm in the Philippines,” said Figueroa. “When I was growing up my parents couldn’t afford to buy toys for us so I told myself that when I grow up, if I can afford it, I am going to buy toys like the Harry Potter collections. I think that is how it all started.”
Figueroa found a kindred spirit in his partner Jamie Doran.
“When we were first dating I had tons and tons of collectable stuff that I started collecting when I was 15 or 16,” said Doran. “At that point I never took things out of the packages. I just put them in bins and stashed them away.”
Doran grew up in the Lindsay-Peterborough area the second oldest of five siblings.
“I’m a U of G alumni,” he said. “I came here for graduate school back in 2000.”
After university he started his own business.
“I have a business on the side called Doran Strategic Consulting,” said Doran. “I do strategy and management consulting for colleges and private companies.”
Doran and Figueroa met online three years ago.
“It was later that we discovered that we shared this joy for toys and collectibles,” said Doran. “I had a humungous Star Wars collection and a number of other things in my collection.”
He convinced Figueroa to help him sell off the collection through the southern Ontario toy-show circuit.
“It is kind of like a glorified yard sale where everyone is selling toys and collectibles,” said Doran. “I started selling off my collection and Joem started buying stuff.”
Before long Figueroa was renting his own table at the toy shows.
“At first it was just like 20 Legos and I kept buying,” said Figueroa. “I realized I am liking this.”
Their inventory and reputation in the toy-show circuit grew exponentially and soon they were looking for a more permanent location.
As luck would have it Guelph’s own self-proclaimed geek, actor, filmmaker and entrepreneur Thomas Gofton was looking for toy retailers just like them to set up shop in his gaming lounge Afterlife downtown at 101 Wyndham St.
“Thomas was great,” said Doran. “He told us we could set up the store in Afterlife and see how it goes.”
They incorporated Freaky Wizard at the end of November 2018 and opened shop a few weeks later.
“We sell toys and collectibles,” said Doran. “We have vintage stuff that would date back to the 60s, 70s and 80s. Mostly, like Star Wars and other action-figure lines are tied to TV shows and movies and that type of thing. We also do the modern stuff. The Funko Pop series is really popular right now.”
With the help of an ambitious online and word-of-mouth social networking campaign the business has grown and they are now helping Gofton rebrand Afterlife as the Mana Bar Video Game Lounge.
“We are going to be moving the Freaky Wizard store to the front of this place so we are more visible from the street,” said Doran. “The goal is to increase the traffic in here and get more people coming and more people knowing about the Mana Bar and Freaky Wizard because we have a lot of crossover with our customers.”
The new arrangement has given them more opportunity to grow the business and seek out a broader range of rare and vintage toys and collectibles for their customers and other toy lovers like them.“We look at it like we are rescuing certain things,” said Doran. “Sometimes we will see something and say oh my god that is a super rare figure from 1975. You’ve got to get it out of that garbage bin or wherever it is.”