For “Star Wars” fans who realize they will never be able to catch a space flight to Alderaan, the home of Princess Leia that was destroyed by the Death Star, Shawn McConnell has the next best thing.
The self-professed “‘Star Wars’ nerd” has opened Fanboy Toys, just the second Star Wars-only collectible shop in the United States.
“Star Wars” fans might need a moment to catch their breath after they walk into the shop that features hundreds of collectible figures, autographed photos and figurines and life-size statues of Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO and Darth Vader.
There is even a life-sized figure of Han Solo trapped in carbonite, and if you ask nicely, McConnell might even join you in a lightsabre joust.
“This is a dream come true,” said McConnell, as an oversized autographed photo of Mark Hammill and Carrie Fisher loomed over his shoulder. “I saw ‘Star Wars’ May 17, 1977 at the Glenwood Theater that was located on Metcalf Avenue, and it changed my life forever.”
“I began collecting Star Wars items. In fact, many of the items I have in my store are from my personal collection.”
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of collectible figures neatly hanging on one wall. There are movie props, lightsabres, intricate models of the Millennium Falcon, poster after poster, other wall decor, cups, hats and T-shirts.
“I quit a $150,000-a-year job working in and teaching automotive diagnostics, to do this – so, you might say, I’m taking a little bit of a chance. But I am following my dream. And from the reaction I get from people who come to the store – my dream is going to become a reality.”
He is following in the footsteps of his good friend Jeff Duzzo, who opened the first Star Wars-only collectible store a few years back in McKinney, Texas.
“Jeff started with a shop about the size of mine,” McConnell said, “in McKinney and now, he has a 6,000-square foot shop in Allen, Texas.”
“I bought and traded for much of my collection from Jeff, and we have talked over the years and I just felt like this was the right time in my life to do something like this.”
While Duzzo’s Order 66 shop attracts patrons from around the world – from London to Australia – McConnell’s Fanboy Toys shop has attracted patrons from as far away as St. Louis and Omaha in the five weeks it has been open.
“And, thank the good Lord, my business is double, or triple now what it was those first couple of weeks,” McConnell said. “People are finding out about us, and I believe it’s just a matter of time before we’re busy all the time.”
Before he opened Fanboy Toys, McConnell did his homework.
“We found out that 28,000 cars a day drive in front of our store on Highway 7 and 6,000 drive by on R.D. Mize Road,” he said. “I am next to an established chiropractor and there are a lot of people who come to the restaurants and then visit my store.”
“And I love to see the reaction of first-time patrons. They just come in, stop, and look around without saying a word. And you know what? That’s how I feel when I first walk in every day. It’s a great feeling.”
McConnell experienced a not-so-great personal feeling when he built the walking, talking R2-D2 by hand.
“It took three years, $10,000 and four girlfriends,” quipped McConnell, “but in the end, it was worth it. I needed a hobby, something to do, and I think it turned out pretty well.”
“Just like this shop. I envisioned it for years, and it is about 95 percent of what I envisioned. It’s my dream, my home away from home. And I encourage everyone who loves ‘Star Wars’ as much as I do to just stop by.
“Even if you don’t buy anything, we can talk ‘Star Wars,’ take some pictures and escape from reality for a little while.”
IF YOU GO: Fanboy Toys is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, by appointment only Sunday and closed on Monday. It’s at 703B N.W. Missouri 7 in Blue Springs in the strip mall behind Popeye’s Chicken. Call 816-427-5353 or go to www.Fanboytoyshop.com.