Where’s a person gonna get their anime fix in this town?
Where’s a citizen gonna find the DVDs that contain the ever-deepening source material that fuels their fandom? Where’s a person gonna boggle at display after display of gorgeously sculpted figurines of their favorite characters? With maybe, in this same venue, a selection of relevant manga and keychains and posters and – oh, you know.
And now you also know, if you didn’t before, about Anime Pop.
Because that’s the pintsized but powerful store next to Kick Butt Coffee on Airport Boulevard, the impressive emporium of all things Japanese and animated, and we’re telling you about it right here.
The bright and colorful joint’s run by an affable guy named John Schellenberg. Who – as we browsed the shelves of covetable goods, in search of some polyvinyl incarnation of Gaara that we might be able to afford – we recently chatted up, all journowise, and learned a few things from.
Like how the hottest items in the store right now are My Hero Academia – which is also, btw, the current obsession of a certain Ngozi Ukazu of Check, Please! fame.
And we learned a few more things, as well …
Austin Chronicle: So, you’re the owner of Anime Pop?
John Schellenberg: Well, I run this store, and my business partner runs the original store up in Addison. This is our first expansion store.
AC: And why did you choose Austin as the expansion city?
JS: For one thing, a lot of people here really enjoy anime. There are a ton of conventions that are in Austin now – a bunch of anime conventions, a bunch of videogame conventions, board game conventions, so it almost seems like the only logical step. When I opened this one, I wanted to make it different from the other store. If you look around, you can see it has more of an Austin feel: I overstocked the shelves, to make it kind of look like it’s a record store. That’s a thing that’s starting to dwindle in Austin and I wanted to keep that spirit going. I have local artists’ artwork on the ceiling, too – but I’ve also set the displays up so it kind of looks like you’ve stepped into a store in the electronics district in Tokyo. It’s pretty cool, right?
AC: It is pretty cool. And what’s your bestselling line, or brand, or –
JS: Right now My Hero Academia is super hot: I can hardly keep it in stock. And one of the other things I like to do, I get a lot of vintage anime – like, you’ll find Ranma ½ peppered throughout the store. A lot of people, when they see that, they’re “Ahh! You’re getting the classics, too!” And if we do well enough, I’m gonna push back the walls, expand the area, have more space for older titles. I’m not done yet – I wanna have a refrigerator in the back, fill it with Japanese drinks. And a claw machine from Japan – they’re called “UFO catchers” – and that way there’d be more of a feel of Akihabara in Austin.
AC: And what’s your number one fandom, personally?
JS: Mine? Probably Ranma ½ or Dragonball. It fluctuates. But I’m a Gen-Xer, so I like a lot of the stuff that came out in the Nineties – like Bubblegum Crisis, Akira, Oh My Goddess! Not the newer ones, but the OVAs that were on videocassette? I wanna get an old television and a VCR and find a bunch of old anime tapes, run that in the store. It’d be fun to pass on that knowledge to people.
AC: Seems like you really enjoy your job, man. And – business is good, too? This is a, uh, successful venture?
JS: It’s been, well, it’s a huge accomplishment, very self-gratifying – just seeing people come in and have a good time. There’s a lot of stores in Austin, and we sometimes overlap in things that are Japanese, but there’s not another dedicated anime store. So people are picking up on that, and they’re coming by and – yeah, we’re doing well, it’s pretty neat.
AC: And why this location in particular?
JS: It was a good price, a good size. And this area is up-and-coming. ACC is moving in over there, into the old Highland Mall. A bunch of apartments are being built nearby. The train system has a stop over there, and the busline over here. It’s five miles from Downtown, and four miles from UT, so you’ll see a lot of kids coming in from UT, going “Oh my god, I just found out about this place!” And they’ll stick around for an hour or so. And when there’s conventions in town, if it’s at the Austin Convention Center? People can just take the train and it’ll bring ’em right there, about 50 feet away. Yeah, it’s a pretty cool location.
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