A Pilgrimage to ThinkGeek’s IRL Bricks and Mortar Flagship Store

After one hectic blur of a day, I elected to unwind with a quick trip to the shiny, new ThinkGeek Flagship store. Earlier in the week, I watched Instagram explode with all the fantastic photographs of the ribbon cutting at the grand opening of the official first ThinkGeek has been near and dear to my heart since their launch in 1999. Although I would have loved to be there for this historic moment, I know my limitations when it comes to fending off 500 superfans in a close proximity combat. Let’s dive headlong into the melee. Time to roll initiative…

Think Geek Store Front at the Florida MallA new challenger has arrived!

After an incredible day at FL Blog Con, I needed to clear my head. I had a day jam packed with learning, writing, and networking with social media mavens where I learned a tremendous amount. Unfortunately, as the day came to a close, I was itching to seek refuge. A fellow geeky friend of mine offered to caravan with me to come and check out the store, too. We intentionally parked close to one another because the location of this haven for Geeks is located in a part of Orlando that I do not find particularly safe.

It is with a heavy heart that I confess that I cannot stand The Florida Mall. The last time I was at Florida Mall, construction was being performed and the power went out in the entire mall. Naturally, I was in the Apple Store waiting be helped, but the staff were worried about being looted and ignored us. So, my heart sank a bit knowing that I would have to venture to a mall of which holds marginal interest and I prefer not going to after dark. It seemed that the decision to place the ThinkGeek store was at a location with a GameStop in place. Personally, I would have selected the Mall at Millennia because it tends to have higher end brands and a far easier floor plan to navigate.

Oh, Rocket, you’re SO underrated!

Luckily, the ThinkGeek store is immediately outside the JC Penney, so for those who like a Mission Impossible-style extraction plan when it comes to approaching retail therapy, you can easily get in and out without much hassle, provided the JC Penney is open. From the JCP anchor, simply step out into the mall access and immediately look left. You’ll see Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy armed to his itty bitty raccoon teeth with his back up, The Terminator Endoskeleton and Iron Man hanging back inside the store front!

And the Geek Shall Inherit the Galaxy

The General Manager, Steve Wilson, manned the door, greeting each guest sincerely. I didn’t even know he was The Man responsible for this outstanding Nerdvana in The City beautiful. He was so accommodating, excited, and talked with each person as they entered, shopped and asked questions. The tricky thing about geek chic and nerd culture is that it can be very inclusive and paradoxically very exclusionary at the same time. As a Lady of Geekdom, it’s a very fine line between finding your tribe and feeling not nerdy enough. I have been known to raise quite the eyebrow at Hot Topic and some more self-proclaimed “real fan experiences” largely in part because I am not: male, under the age of 30, have my own specific fandom that I would risk life and limb for, regularly play video and computer games, actively cosplay, or use every possible quote from every possible science fiction and fantasy film.

Walking into ThinkGeek, I didn’t feel welcomed.

I felt at home.

Inside ThinkGeek Orlando

Must contain excitement! Cannot cause a commotion!

The Pleasing Bananas for the ThinkGeek Monkeys

  • Welcoming, enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff members
  • Incredible stock on long-time TG sensations
  • Wall. Of. FUNKO. Pop! (Someone find me A.J. Lee!!)
  • Products grouped by fandom, item type, or interest
  • Ability to check availability of products with barcode scanner
  • Unique collectibles unavailable in TG Online (life-sized Iron Man suit or Terminator endoskeleton, anyone?)
  • Backing of the GameStop franchise (and a GameStop several doors down with more merchandise)

ThinkGeek Product Inventory Availability Scanner Critical Hit D20 ice Mold

Silly Monkey, you’re challenging the wrong bard. I throw natural 20s.

Before, I list the few shortcomings from my inaugural shopping experience at TG IRL, I would like to state that when I posed my questions to the cashier, she fielded them honestly and politely. I was heavily encouraged to submit my suggestions and ask any questions to their customer service department. Having worked in highly competitive retail and corporate sectors, I know when I voice my opinion and the importance of providing constructive feedback. I make some notes when I got home, but I took the time the following morning to send an e-mail to the TG IRL e-mail box.

Joss Weedon's Firefly meets CLUE

Firefly x CLUE? I’ll be in my bunk… 

The Few Rogue Banana Peels

  • Currently, there is no frequent shopper/rewards program.
  • Ccurrently, customers cannot earn GeekPoints like the online store
  • Items discounted as a result of the IRL Launch on TG.com were full price in store
  • Modest shop size, but it will get cramped once the holidays arrive

Several hours after sending my suggestions, I simply did not get a generic “under advisement e-mail reply from a generic mail box.” While shopping at Disney Springs, my telephone started ringing, and I found myself on the phone with GM Steve Wilson. Not only did he personally read my e-mail, he felt it was important that he respond as promptly as possible. He addressed my concerns, promising to forward them onto the corporate office. As a local resident wanting to support a local business and someone who has shopped ThinkGeek since their launch in 1999, the feedback I provided was targeted toward a practical and ideal shopping experience. This personalized, proactive approach is precisely why I love companies like ThinkGeek– we take care of our own.

ThinkGeek Power Up Mug & Critical Hit D20 Ice Mold

A modest and practical haul! With Christmas coming, I have to pace myself!

For me, ThinkGeek helped me to embrace my geeky side and feel comfortable in who I am. I grew up with a Nintendo in my house and I later moved onto different gaming platforms, including PlayStation and XBox in college. I loved anime and manga since I was 14, but it was at a time that it was foreign and strange. In the late 90s, despite the popularity of video games, people who consumed these various nontraditional media were viewed differently. During college, I learned it was okay to be geeky and to like what I like. As an adult, I love discovering when friends or colleagues share a mutual interest or even a different facet of interest within the Geek spectrum.

ThinkGeek's Power Up Mug Customer Action Shot 

This Self-Rescuing Princess loves her Power Up Mug!

Over the summer, GameStop purchased ThinkGeek for a mindblowing $140 million dollars. The largest upswing is that most large shopping malls, have at least one GameStop. ThinkGeek serves a very select and underrepresented niche market. The difficult thing about a select, captive audience is the ability to make them happy, obtain their very guarded and highly sought seals of approval, and most importantly keep them coming back for more. Now, I am all for TG launching into in-person retail, but I do have concerns about the impact they will have on smaller business fighting to entertain the smart masses in such a competitive market. I also worry about the success factor. As a long time ThinkGeek Monkey, I truly want to see this next step for them succeed, and continue making geek culture accessible and welcoming to all! You do not have to be the ultimate superfan to enjoy shopping at the ThinkGeek Store. You just have to embrace your inner geek.

It’s okay. You can do it!

Answer Me, These Questions Three

  1. What kind of beverages should I test drive and model using my Power Up Mug and the Critical Hit D20 Ice Mold?
  2. Would you be interested on my take on the ThinkGeek Handbag of Holding?
  3. Help me pick out a color for a SCOTTeVEST Women’s Trench Coat (Red, Brown, or Black)?
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