Pop-culture paradise Collectibles curator extraordinaire comes full circle as he resurrects one-of-a-kind shop in South Osborne
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There was nary a cloud in the sky last September when owner Les David officially unveiled Hollywood Toy and Poster Company, a well-appointed collectibles shop at 692 Osborne St. specializing in hard-to-find pop-culture memorabilia.
Truth be told, it was so sunny that a woman who was waiting on the sidewalk for the store to open couldn’t focus properly when David welcomed her and a dozen other early birds inside. After allowing her eyes to adjust to the dimmer surroundings, she was finally able to take a look around, at which point she exclaimed, at the top of her lungs, “Holy s—t!”
The object of her attention was an exposed-brick wall measuring approximately four metres high by seven metres across that was covered floor to ceiling with hundreds of new-in-box Funko Pops!, a highly sought-out line of vinyl figurines made to mimic people and characters from all walks of life, including movies, television, sports and music. (Mamma mia let me go… pick up some Funko Pops! resembling members of the rock band Queen.)
“The interesting thing was, the second she blurted that out, everybody in the store started laughing, stating that was precisely what they’d been thinking, too, only they didn’t have the nerve to say it,” David says, pointing out while Funko Pops! can be purchased at retail outlets such as Toys “R” Us, what makes his array unique is that every last one was previously unavailable in Canada, and was personally sourced from the United States, where they were released exclusively, over the last 20 years.
“The other comment I get a lot of is, ‘This is unlike any store I’ve ever set foot in,’” he continues, standing next to life-size effigies of Spider-Man and Yoda, just two of the 1,050-square-foot locale’s numerous head-turners. “That tells me I must be doing something right, because that was the vibe I was aiming for, when I started thinking about a place of my own, a few years ago.”
The last time we hooked up with David for a story was in July 2021, when he toured us around a self-contained space inside a barn situated on his rural property that houses his treasure trove of artifacts inspired by the Indiana Jones movie franchise. At the time, his 25,000-piece cache was being considered for entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.
As it turns out, his interests aren’t limited to all-things-Indy.
A movie buff for as long as he can remember, David, 58, started haunting downtown comic stores in the late 1970s, in search of licensed toys and games associated with the Star Wars and Star Trek galaxies, which he’d buy then carefully store away in the original packaging. By the mid-’80s, he was on a first-name basis with many of the city’s movie-theatre managers, who obligingly gave him advertising material that would otherwise have been tossed in a trash bin, when a feature ended its run.
Was he discriminating? Yes and no. While his personal taste was geared toward the sci-fi genre, he didn’t turn his nose up at promos for mainstream fare such as Top Gun or Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which explains why a poster for each of those flicks is presently on sale at his store, for $71 and $268, respectively.
By 1990 David had amassed so much movie- and TV-related merchandise that he opened the first iteration of Hollywood Toy and Poster Company on Notre Dame Avenue, near the now-closed Towne Cinema 8. Sales were strong, especially when eBay came along in the late 1990s. He chose to close in 2000, however, after landing his dream job, a 12-month term as curator for Rancho Obi-Wan, a non-profit museum in Petaluma, Calif., that is home to the world’s largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia.
Upon his return to Winnipeg, David worked for a local firm that distributed new releases to movie theatres, a position that enabled him to continue his collecting ways. Following that, he started his own business, an IT firm called Medifilm that, to this day, installs and services computer systems for individual businesses.
With all of that going on, plus the day-to-day upkeep of his Indiana Jones museum, which has been visited by Raiders fans from every corner of the globe, why did he feel it necessary to resurrect Hollywood Toy and Poster Company, last fall?
That’s easy, he says. When COVID-19 struck three years ago this month, almost all his corporate clients switched to a model that enabled employees to work from home. Simply put, if people were no longer reporting to the office, they weren’t breaking anything, which meant they didn’t require his services as much as they had in the past.
“Suddenly I had more time on my hands, and even though I was in a good enough place that I could have retired, I’ve been a workaholic my entire life, and was used to eight- or 10-hour days, six or seven days a week,” he says, noting before opening the store, he rented a booth at the Mulvey Flea Market to gauge interest. “So no, I wouldn’t have known how to stay home, doing nothing.”
David couldn’t have asked for a more suitable place to set up shop, when he signed a three-year lease at what was formerly Quest Music Academy, last summer. He was more than familiar with the South Osborne neighbourhood, having lived on nearby Walker Avenue as a child, plus he has fond memories of attending Disney movies at the Park Theatre, which is situated on the same block.
How’s this for coming full circle? He presently sets up a table at the Park on movie nights, selling items tied to whatever flick is being screened, be it The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Phantom of the Paradise or, as will be the case next month, This is Spinal Tap. He has also formed an association with Park Alleys, down the street, to which he lent posters for The Big Lebowski and Kingpin, arguably the two greatest bowling movies of all time.
Besides the aforementioned posters and Funko Pops!, David stocks everything from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial TV-tables to Home Alone board games to press kits for films such as Godzilla and Dumb and Dumberer. Certainly, if you have $2,900 burning a hole in your pocket, you can head home with a two-metre-tall Deadpool mannequin under your arm, but there are plenty of more affordable options, such as doggy dishes bearing a red-and-yellow Superman logo.
And while the hours of operation are listed near a bat-signal light hanging in the front window, they are more a suggestion than a rule. David, who often works alongside his wife Dawn, has no qualms about staying an hour past closing time, to wait for a customer who’s having difficulty choosing between a Central Perk or Dunder Mifflin Paper Company coffee mug. Or if a person needs to sleep on it, as they hem and haw whether or not to drop $400 on a theatre poster for Casablanca, he lives 25 minutes away, and is more than willing to meet them back at the shop, first thing in the morning.
“Obviously I need people to eventually buy stuff, to stay viable, but I very much encourage people to just hang out and talk ‘nerd’ talk, like at the bar in Cheers,” he says with a chuckle. “If you drop by on Friday, when we’re open till nine (p.m.) you’ll see a lot of the same faces, many of whom come in with a friend or family member, saying ‘This is the place I was telling you about.’ Word of mouth is everything, right? And hearing something like that is always music to my ears.”
For more information, go to hollywoodtoyposter.com
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.