The quantity of different types of collectibles is virtually infinite, but Shawn Orza doesn’t have enough space for an infinite supply of items.
Instead, his new Wiffle Games shop located on Willow Street in downtown Chemainus offers a little bit of everything for comic book, LP album, video game and memorabilia collectors.
Orza, 31, was born in Port Renfrew, but grew up in the Cowichan Valley in Lake Cowichan and Duncan. His background is in construction, learning from his dad and working with him for more than 10 years.
“Then I started this hobby six years ago,” Orza pointed out. “My wife’s friend at the time gave me her old Nintendo. It just kind of rejuvenated my interest. I started collecting it and selling doubles of stuff.”
He wasn’t necessarily an avid game player or collector as a youth.
“I had my Lego and I played the Nintendo and Super Nintendo when I was really young,” Orza noted. “All the older kids used to rent all the good games for like weeks at a time.”
The bulk of his collecting can thus be condensed into the last six years and it’s quite a collection of items he’s amassed.
“I’ve always been running an on-line store for the last five years and more seriously in the last two,” he added.
Unlike the tendency toward more on-line retail rather than physical locations, Orza is bucking that trend by going the other way. He opened the Wiffle Games storefront May 10 and has seen a significant flow of customers.
“It’s easier to sell a lot of things, especially with records,” he indicated. “It gives people the ability to trade and bring you items.”
Orza buys, sells and trades everything and the variety of collections works well in that system for “having the ability to cross-platform trade,” he reasons.
“Everything seems to fit. Comic enthusiasts are getting into video games. Those people can appreciate toys like the Transformers.”
Orza even has a couple of bowling-themed pinball machines that are both a novelty and sentimental for the older generation and piques the curiosity of the younger generation.
The 1964 Bowling Queen machine he rescued from the dirt floor of a Cobble Hill home with a garage sale purchase and the Triple Strike machine was purchased on-line.
Orza’s store opening has brought people firmly entrenched in collecting out of the woodwork – like James Wilkerson, who owns around 14,000 comic books and filled in at the store while Orza was away during the Giant Street Market in Chemainus.
Orza considers it a different type of antique store in town.
“Been tons of positive feedback,” he said. “Everybody always comments on the store and how cool it looks. I don’t think there’s anything like this on the Island.”
As a result, people have been coming in from Nanaimo, Victoria and even the North Island as well as the local area. Of course, there’s also lots of tourists around now, stopping in for a close look at everything.
Orza feels it helps for him to be centrally located between Nanaimo and Victoria to receive attention from collectors in both centres.
“I’m pretty new to having a physical location,” he noted. “It’s interesting building up more of a clientele.
“I’d say 90 per cent of my customers are repeat customers, and customers that are willing to spend a good deal of money.”
People like A.J.Barnard of Saltair are like kids in a candy store.
“It gives me a reason to come to downtown Chemainus,” Barnard said. “It’s got something for the other 50 per cent of the people. It’s not another clothing store, it’s not another antique store.”
With stock selling quickly comes the need to replace it. Orza recently bought a 1,200 record collection that will keep his album alley well-stocked for a while.
He’s happy to work with people to find what they want for their collections.
“It’s been a dream,” Orza said. “Communicating with people, I think, is one of my best attributes.
“I try to be super fair, especially if stuff is desirable, I offer more trade.”
Wiffle Games is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.