Near the corner of South Main, across the street from Lola’s Frozen Yogurt, two small but bright orange flags hang outside with blue lettering and two blue boxing gloves hitting each other. One with an “M” and the other with an “L.”
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Retro is a new retro toy and video game store in Bowling Green, Ohio. They opened their doors for the first time on Oct. 24, and held a ribbon cutting on Nov. 3. Co-owner Kayla Minniear said and things are going “really well,” for almost one month.
“I think the hardest part about opening the store was actually getting it opened because you have to inventory,” she said. “We cleaned and tested every single game in here, [and] that took us about two weeks.”
Clean and test every game? Individually? I glance at the wall to my left where shelves of Nintendo64 and NES game cartridges lay. In the glass enclosure, a Game Boy Color sits inside with Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow next to it. The holy trinity of Pokémon games at half the price of the new Pokémon Sun and Moon available for Nintendo 3DS.
“There’s probably over a thousand in here,” Minniear said. “Just out right now. I know we had about 700 original NES cards when we first opened.”
Minniear works in the the store full time and co-owns with her husband Jon, a full-time plumber. A couple nights a week and on the weekends, he comes in to help run the store. He also repairs and fixes video game consoles.
Growing up, Kayla was an avid collector of “Sailor Moon” and Disney’s “Aladdin.” When she and her husband first started dating, they began to collect video games after he noted he wanted to have all the games for one of his retro Nintendo systems. For their third anniversary, she bought him a Super Mario Bros. arcade game, which now sits at the front of the store on “free play.”
A market for retro video game collecting and collectors exists, and it’s increasingly growing into (as Kayla described it) “it’s own stock market.”
“Most people don’t realize that because they’re not retro collectors. Regular stocks go up and down…it’s the same with video games,” she said. “There will be a game that’s worth like, $600 at one point; drop down to $200 and then shoot up to like, two grand. It just depends.”
A game called “Little Samson,” was valued at $80 when the couple first started collecting video games together. It’s highest peak price, according to Kayla, was $1,600 and it is now currently valued at $1,200. They recently traded this game for a trip to Ireland.
As collectors, Kayla and Jon want to get more known in their local collector community and their online community is already strong. Minniear said people at flea markets would ask about where their store front was, but they didn’t have one. Not only are they hoping to give the collector community a new place to buy quality games, but they are hoping to give the Bowling Green community a new place to hang out and remember the good things of the past.
“We’ll be hosting some free tournaments soon,” Minniear said. “If [a] college kid wants to come and do his homework at the booth, I don’t care.”
The white walls are drawn and decorated with different but familiar characters. Above the window facing the alleyway, Spider-Man holds Captain America’s shield. By the arcade machines, Scooby Doo and the gang are fleeing in the Mystery Machine.
“My mother did [the artwork]. She’s going to start painting it on canvas, so if people wanna buy them, they can.”
Kayla said many collectors of all ages have visited the store.
With the holidays approaching, Kayla Minniear hopes Rock Em Sock Em Retro will be a place people can buy gifts.
“I know a couple people came in to buy the NSYNC dolls just because their sister had it growing up. We’re just hoping to bring a lot of those people in, and we’re also hoping we can keep the shelves full too.”