Successful Pawling Toy Store ‘Imperial Castle’ Was The Product of Supportive Family + Corporate Misery
Recently, I was having a loud and aggressive discussion on my radio show about Star Wars and Marvel, stating emphatically, that those two-worlds SHOULD NOT meet in the multiverse.
That is when my I-95 App Chat Alert notification popped up on the screen. A listener named Ginger wanted me to know there was a toy store in Pawling, NY that I might like called The Imperial Castle.
I went and checked out the website and saw my childhood flash before my eyes. I reached out to the owner John to see about prices. I had to set a budget for what I would be buying.
When John and I spoke, I asked how a grown man ends up selling toys for a living? That was not a judgmental question, I was actually extremely jealous, and wanted to know the road map to Shangri-La.
John said it started when his son began getting into Star Wars. He said that rekindled his love for the action figures from the original trilogy (1977-1983) so he just started buying them again.
Star Wars collecting led to collecting other toy lines and action figures. Before too long, John was moderating toy-collection forums online, where he learned this was all big business and a ton of fun.
By 2017, his passion collided with his distaste for his corporate life. John had been working for a telecom company for over 15 years, and have carved out a very nice living but he was miserable.
John told me the environment had become "toxic" and he immediately began to "clash" with a new boss. John was an award-winning rep for his company, with years of experience but he was unhappy. Then, his new boss threatened to "write him up."
John called his wife, came clean about his misery at work, and discussed quitting. John's wife told him, to tell the boss, to go F--- himself. John handed in his two weeks notice that day.
The next day John Googled "Open a Toy Store" and the dream was underway. He "haphazardly" purchased as much toy inventory as he could online, leased a space in Pawling and The Imperial Castle became a business.
John told me, he gave himself one year to pass or fail at this. He said:
"Now, four and half years later, we are thriving!! The store is half modern toys, half vintage toys. We carry everything from Nerf, Funko , Marvel Legends and LOLs to 1970s-1980s lines like GI Joe, He-Man, Transformers and of course Star Wars! We have thousands of toys from $2 to $10,000 and everything in between and we’ll actually be on the Amazon Prime series A Toy Store Near You!! It’s been crazy. We are a healthy company with solid earnings and decent margins for a small business in a tight industry. We continue to grow and we ensure that anyone walks has a good time."
P.S. It turns out Ginger, the woman who messaged me, is John's wife. Isn't that sweet and supportive? John thinks so too, when he wrote me he said "I’m still a little surprised Ginger did this (I shouldn’t be, she’s been very supportive of this insane idea)."
I'm a sucker for stories like this one. Also toys, I'm a sucker for toys. If I was told the same story, but it was a muffin store, I'd care a lot less. Yes, I said muffin store instead of bakery.
The Imperial Castle is located at 33 East Main Street in Pawling, NY.
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