Local toy store “The Gathering” place in GR

Is the Santa in your family looking for that perfect toy for the kid aged six through 96? One of the few remaining locally owned, independent toy stores in the area, Galactic Toys & Collectibles, has two locations that stock Pokémon, Magic, Dungeons & Dragons, action figures, Legos, board games, and the other pop culture toys they crave. The original location is at 3120 28th St. SE in Kentwood. The new location, which opened in November of this year, is at 4174 Alpine Ave. NW in Comstock Park.

“After opening our first brick-and-mortar location on 28th Street near Woodland Mall, we noticed many of our customers were traveling at least 30 minutes from the north side of Grand Rapids to our store,” says Jeff Bleich, owner of Galactic Toys. “We’re excited to have a second Grand Rapids location to better serve our loyal customers.”

As part of his strategy for success, Bleich invites customers to hang out and play cards, board games, or video games with newfound friends.

“We have upwards of 50 people playing cards or board games for four or five hours on a nightly basis,” Bleich says. “We do Nintendo Switch Pokémon events every Saturday night. I have two kids who like to play so instead of sitting at home they come in and meet people in person. It helps them build social skills.”

Game nights are free. Tournament play includes a fee that is divvied up as prize money that can be spent in the store. In addition, the stores have 50 demo board games set up for shoppers to play on any time, like Scythe, an agricultural game centered on wheat harvesting, and Monopoly in all of its variations; today’s best sellers include classic, Game of Thrones, and Rick and Morty versions.

Bleich didn’t set out to be a toy tycoon. He was working full-time in IT at Spectrum Health when he decided to make some money on the side selling name-brand and collectible toys on Amazon out of his garage. In 2013, he quit the day job to go full-time with toys.

“I’ve always been a fan of all toys, specifically Star Wars and Marvel,” he says. “And, I grew up playing trading card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon in high school in Grand Haven. I opened up a hybrid toy shop/card shop so we could offer something very different from Toys R Us.”

Santas who prefer to do their shopping from the comfort of their big red armchairs can visit Galactic Toys’ website, which serves customers across the U.S. In fact, Galactic Toys & Collectibles now grosses more than $10 million in annual sales, employs 25 elves, and stocks a 100,000-square-foot warehouse.

This holiday season’s hot sellers have included advent calendars, Funko Pop! Vinyl toys, and Star Wars items. (The traditional Santa can choose from more than 100 train sets.) Store hours are 1 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday with extended hours planned for Christmas Eve.

“We choose not to carry the typical toys that you find at Meijer,” Bleich says. “Here, you get to see all the genres of toys, from action figures to pop vinyls to trains, and you get to experience the toy atmosphere.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Galactic Toys & Collectibles

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