So, you think Christmas is over and there are no more great gifts to had or be given? Suppose Santa Claus makes everything in his own shop up north with nary the assistance of elves of a more Southern Californian kind? Well think again! After you divine the new store I discovered, your post-holiday doldrums–in the wake of the related great American sugar crash–will be traded (just like all too many Mystery Minis) in return for that festive childlike wonder of your very first remembered Christmas; or at the very least the latest in which you did not succumb too heartily to the downside of all life’s seemingly impossible vicissitudes… ~sigh~ The collector’s den in question: 3D Retro!
Home to mainstream toys, those of the indie artistic variety, and almost anything you could hope to procure from overseas and beyond, 3D Retro is also the collector’s den, and television studio, to fellow collector and enthusiast Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker himself!!!
Lo! Should you feel tapped out, taken down, changed for a chump, fret not! One can acquire the soundest of all figurines to action figures starting at the sensible price of $6.99! So, come Valentine’s Day, St. Paddys, Arbor Day and more birthdays at which Gandalf could shake a knotted stick, you will surely have found your enchanted pot of gold at the end of your enchanted rainbow! Just as the Love Boat theme song blithely advised, “there’s something for everyone”, so too will 3D Retro’s owner Ben Goretsky as if on cue declare, “We carry a lot of pop culture related toys, not just the art ones. There’s something for everyone here.”—Up to and including nearly every artist worth his or her salt ever to appear at your annual Designercon.
According to Jack Venturo, diorama maker extraordinaire, owner of Jackorama, and steadfast customer, “It’s the best toy store. It has everything you need for everyone’s tastes, everyone’s likes and everyone’s age… [including] the personal touch of the toy openings, and the monthly events, and the food trucks…[and all the great people who are] invited, [along with] people from the neighborhood, driving by and walking by…”
Food trucks you say…? Toy Openings? Monthly events?!?! Yes, yes oh yes! For not only is 3D Retro a toy store with which to be reckoned, they throw their very own neighborhood festivities/toy openings roughly every four to eight weeks!
My first experience comes just a sorcerer’s stone’s throw roughly a week before Christmas and a fortnight in advance of the new year, with the reception of a very special artist come to us all the way from Vegas! All afternoon he is hard at work on a mural depicting one of his signature characters—recently produced into a toy, courtesy of 3D Retro– that will grace the back wall of the establishment indefinitely!
“Today, local artist Juan is visiting us from Las Vegas,” proudly declares owner Ben Goretsky. “He’s done murals before for people like Insomniac and EDC.”
“[I’ve also done projects for] a lot of Casinos, Cosmopolitan, The UFC at the Hard Rock Hotel, [and] the NBA as well,” Juan adds after Ben’s related inquiry.
“He’s also been featured in many galleries. We noticed him when he had [an exhibit] at La Luz, [in East Hollywood,]” adds Goretsky. “One of the pieces that Juan made a couple of years ago [entitled] ‘Smile’, [and what today’s mural and new toy] is based off of…was featured in that show a few years ago. [It was] one of the first pieces to sell and we’re like, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to actually make it into a limited-edition vinyl figure?’ So, we released the figure, like a soft release of it, at DesignerCon this year. But now we’re doing an official release today! Juan was kind enough to come out from Vegas and do the mural of the figure. So, people can see the mural, buy the figure, [then] get it signed or splattered, or whatever they want–Yeah, a lot of fun stuff!”
I can’t help but notice the character looks much like a rabbit but Goretsky clarifies the matter soundly and comprehensively, “It’s actually [Juan’s] main character Felipe. ‘Smile’ is the piece. That’s what it’s called. If you look at the actual toy, the reason it’s called Smile is…Felipe actually doesn’t have…a mouth… The character shows emotions in different ways. But with this one he’s holding up a little sign… So [on our end, in terms of production], what we do is we take artists’ paintings and drawings and we convert them to 3D. You’ll see a bunch of them in the store; we’ve worked with artists like Juan, artists like Gary Basement, artists like Greg Simpkins, Brandi Milne, and Ron English… You’ll [also] see them inside the store! …I always tell people we turn the art into 3D and I have a team of sculptors and people that do that, but at the end of the day, the artist is heavily involved in every process…from the original sculpting, to the paint selection, to the colors, to the box design, everything…we do not do anything without the artist looking at it, signing off on it and, saying ‘good to go!’ So, it’s still all theirs, we just make it come to life!”
An avid collector and toy enthusiast himself, Goretsky has been in the sales game for over ten years!
“In 2003 I decided that aside from just collecting I was gonna actually start selling and producing the toys myself. So, I’ve always had a fondness for…I guess it’s called either Urban Art or Street Art, however you want to describe it. And I started getting to know a lot of the artists. So I started going to a lot of gallery shows which I enjoyed doing anyway…and I started 3D Retro! It was an online store and then about 3 years ago, I actually opened up the brick and mortar when we moved out here to Glendale.”
“We carry a lot of pop culture related toys not just the art ones,’ Goretsky continues. “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of art toys being made, and the ones that are made are very limited at times. So, we carry what we can, and of course we carry the products that we produce as well. In terms of the pop culture toys, we carry the ones that are really hard to find; the ones that are coming from Asia, the ones you just can’t find in your regular toy store. They’re a little bit different in price than what you would find at…Toys R Us or Target. But they’re really cool and they’re so different from their American cousins: The Hasbro and the Mattels… Jack Venturo [the diorama maker] is one of our favorite customers, because he comes in and he buys these amazing toys and he turns them into these amazing dioramas!”
Once inside the store I cannot help but be enchanted by its colorful hominess, to speak nothing of the vast amounts of eye candy both literal and artistic in each and every direction.
“You’ll see that we put a lot of love into it,” Goretsky continues, commencing the tour. “‘Cause we own it… We didn’t want to go into a place where rent would be ridiculous and three years later we’d have to go and shut our doors. We wanted to do it right. The city of Glendale has been very kind to us. We found a great location here… We’re next to all the studios and all the artists, and so far everybody’s been great… Our store is [also] the official collector’s den to Mark Hamill!”
(It is at this particular juncture the writer almost passes out…)
“[Mark] has a show on Amazon’s Comicon HQ, and the 3D Retro Store is where they filmed. In the show he’s doing the show out of his ‘collector’s den’…and it’s actually the 3D Retro store! …It’s about collecting and other collectors. The producers of the show that work at the studios next to us love the store! They came to us and we were more than happy to open our doors. Plus, one of the artists that we work with is Nathan Hamill who is Mark’s son! …So, when Mark was here…they took out all the toys, they put in a couch, and put down a rug because he has to have the toys they’re going to talk about [at arm’s reach]… He [had] his little La-Z-Boy and another chair where some of the collectors would sit and they would have conversations. Then they used the counter ‘cause they had a puppet named POP and the puppet would be behind the counter [and talk] to him. They filmed the whole first season all episodes in two days!”
The toys themselves, to speak nothing of their immense variety, are a force to be reckoned with and Goretsky knows each and every nook and cranny concerning his stock, “We’ve got Yummy World. Yummy World is very popular with the kids, then of course we have Power Rangers, and all the Mystery Minis from like your favorite cartoons… Many of the series characters come in Mystery Boxes. So, it could be any one of the characters/poses pictured on the outside of the box!”
“And people collect them and some trade—it’s a whole new world, it’s a whole other thing,” adds Jack Venturo.
And I somehow cannot help but be reminded of the French Kinder Surprise candy with a random and surprise some-assembly-required-toy within the belly of a hollowed out Milk/White chocolate egg!
“That’s what all these are,” confirms Goretsky. “This line is called Mystery Minis… You have your Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Zootopia, even Barbie and you don’t know which one you’re going to get inside the box! They’re a lot of fun and like Jack said people get ‘em and they trade and collect and all kinds of stuff.”
There’s a whole community behind ‘em,” adds Jack! “There’s facebook groups, online groups…everything…”
“Then you also have things like Sonic the Hedgehog, and Southpark so it’s like a lot of mainstream stuff,” adds Goretsky. “Where for instance if you look at this back wall here these are all artists toys!”
I behold said back wall and it is hilarious! My eyes are most readily drawn to several characters entitled “Cereal Killers”, each one emblazoned on their very own cereal box divining from a parallel universe just two over from Hell it seems; Each representing the more benign breakfast creatures hailing from this timeline sporting their own pithy catch phrase: “Healthy Rabbits don’t eat the Tricks!”
“Count Calorie, Excellent source of childhood diabetes,” articulates a decidedly dumpy Dracula.
“Cap n’ Cornstarch: Dentist Recommended… A good source of tooth decay!”, “Super Frosted Fat: They’re GROOOSSSS”—ostensibly emanating from a charmingly chubby tiger.
“Yucky Children Charmer: A good source of cavities”—Admonishes, yet encourages an equally chubby and psychopathic looking leprechaun!
And, last but not least, an apoplectic corn fed frog can only endorse: “Killfrog’s Sugar Smacks, What kids crave!!”
But irrespective of my brief bout of focus, considering the immense variety and popped color (after all said breakfast cereal’s popped corn) it is hard to know where to look next!
Even store manager Justin Kupinoff has a ‘problem’ of sorts: “It’s a double-edged sword. I get a nice employee discount, so I spend a good chunk of my money on the stuff here!”
“What’s one of the craziest requests you’ve ever gotten,” I can only demand of the man behind the counter who knows all and sees all.
(laughing) “Last week a guy came in,” Kupinoff commences. “I can’t remember the name of the movie right now, but [he wanted a character figure from] an obscure Japanese cult horror movie from the 70s…that…they released back when they did the laser discs–the big ones! You had to buy [the laser disc] of this old movie and it came with this figure and he was looking for that specific figure!”
A veritable feast for all senses, one could stay there all day. And with the varying and sundry amenities therein, that would not be all together of an impossibility as they’ve got both a vintage, classic soda machine sporting coke in those old bottles boasting natural cane sugar—and…a bathroom after all said “boozing” and perusing! (And oh, a classic Pac Man machine that doubles as a vintage video gamer’s dream boasting nearly any prototypical game you could ever want to play!!!)
Round about 4:30 pm, the mural is coming along quite nicely almost to the point of completion and I can’t help but wonder how the establishment’s entire back wall will look within a year’s time. Goretsky enlightens me soundly on this matter, “The store is in the city of Glendale and we’re working with the city to allow us to [have it entirely muraled]. We’re already in talks with Greg Simpkins, Johnny Rodriguez or Command Z, Shepherd Faery or ‘Obey’ and Ron English from New York . We’re slowly inviting these artists that are known to do murals…to come out and participate in making our store a little bit more cool by providing their art on the outside!”
For more information on 3D Retro, please visit:
Or, even better—traverse to the iconic store itself!!!