We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Esser and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
I think I’ve been lucky enough to help others with what I do in a few, pretty cool ways.
Through my hyper-local show, that’s based in a small community at the heart of the iconic Route 66, I’ve been able to seek out and shine a spotlight on these small, mom and pop shops that travelers might normally miss, and even longtime locals or those relocating here sometimes overlook, have hesitated try, and by seeing these places through me are now plan to visit.
Through my little toy store, I believe I am able to help others in the same way, but on a different level.
Quick back story, I have a degree in psychology and worked in mental health for years until 2020 hit us all so hard and the company I was working for shutdown permanently. I filled my office with vintage toys and pop culture goodness, just because it made me happy. But, I also quickly found that those that were coming in for counseling were drawn to all the nostalgic goodness as well and instead of taking weeks, or longer, to engage with me, it was happening in minutes!
As a side hustle, but mostly for fun and to keep me from becoming a hoarder, I started reselling some of the toys I was hunting down on Ebay. My motivation was that everytime I shipped a box, it was being received by someone who was going to smile when they opened it. I wasn’t just delivering a toy, I was reuniting them with a piece of their childhood.
Plus, I’m recycling these things from thrift stores and yard sales which means I’m green. And that’s really cool too.
Now that I’m opening a brick and mortar location here in Kingman, Arizona, my sights are set on producing a reality show out of it – think Pawn Stars meets Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory – plus, doing my own version of a fun kids game show that let’s me connect and be a positive role model for the next generation.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It’s not an easy road. I know now that self doubt, anxiety, and failing are all part of the journey. But, these tough roadblocks tend to turn into physical pain for me. So overcoming them quickly, becomes a necessity. I find working on my self talk and keeping an inventory of what I have accomplished handy, to review when needed, does wonders.
As far as the history goes, like I said, I’m a product of the late 70s, 80s, and 90s the pop culture from this time period. It is what fed my soul and filled my days with adventures and wonder ever since I stumbled into the movie theater in 1977 wearing nothing but a diaper and a raggedy Superman tee to checkout the original Star Wars.
Now, back in the day we didn’t have a lot money which made most of these toys out of reach for me and the other kids in my hood. (Yep, I said hood.) So, when I decided to reconnect and have my own toy reunion with my childhood, these were the things I went hunting for. It was like jumping into the DeLorean and setting the clock back to FUN and hunting down all these things I missed out on as a kid made me feel like Indiana Jones out on the hunt for ancient artifacts.
So, in 2011, with $25 bucks in hand I headed out determined to see what toys I could rescue and reunite with others like me.
Fast forward to today, where I’m on this continued mission to be a genuine local ambassador and micro-influencer in my local community while also looking to add to this incredible global, nostalgic conversation about toys, food, and fun in my own geeky way with my web series’ focused on bringing you along with me on on my mini-adventures connecting all the nerdy, vintage toy goodness I curate with the food and fun memories we all love to share.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Aside from the local Brenden Movie Theater and my Toy Reunion shop, some of my favorite spots are local food joints where we can all connect with one another in the real world.
The ones that stand out right away are Floyd’s, Frozen Yogurt Island, Hooches, Tack Shed, Sugar Shack, this Mexican spot now called Frey’s, and this cool spot called, Stuff It Burgers. Wow, I guess you can tell I’m a foodie! (If you couldn’t tell just by looking at me! Lol.)
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shout out to all those involved in creating the pop culture that made the late 70s, 80s, and early 90s so fun. You continue to inspire and bring joy to me on a daily basis. You rock.
I’d also like to give credit to my two daughters who I’ve raised on my own and who are now grown. It is you in my life that continues to make me want to do better.
Finally, I want to thank my role models. It’s from your work that I have pieced together my own blueprint for life, namely; God, Rob Dyrdek, Dwayne Johnson, Guy Fieri, Slobby Robby, and Batman. Much love and appreciation. 😉