What started as a booth at an anime convention five years ago has blossomed into a bricks and mortar store for sisters Toni and Jo Thomas in downtown Hamilton.
Cosplay-FTW (for the win) has finally opened its doors on King Street East after moving from its small Mountain location.
“Though there was high traffic in terms of cars and vehicles (on the Mountain), there wasn’t too many people walking in from the streets,” explained Toni Thomas. “The store itself was also really small, it was like a closet. Four people would be in there and it would be packed like a tiny elevator. We thought it was about time to expand to a bigger location.”
The store focuses on selling cosplay accessories, which is short for ‘costume play’ where people dress up as their favourite fictional/animated characters, and anime merchandise, including plush toys, pillows and figurines.
The idea of starting their own booth during an anime convention began when the pair started looking for circle lenses, which changes the colours of one’s eyes. It turned out their friends were also looking for Sharingan lenses (eyes from a character from Naruto).
“My mom actually managed to hook us up with a contact in Korea and they pushed us to Geo Contact Lens and we started buying lenses from them,” said Thomas, noting anime characters generally have large, bright or unique eyes, and it was very difficult to find special effects lenses at the time.
“We thought, if we were looking to get these lenses, there were probably a lot more people looking them too, as well as cosplay supplies and other cute Japanese items.”
Cosplay-FTW finally opened its own store on the Mountain three years later after much pushing from customers, which was aided by the large cosplaying community in Hamilton, she added.
“We were kind of pushed into it from our customers; they would ask if we had a location and we initially said no, but then thought, we may as well,” Thomas added. “So we started with the little place on the Mountain and then it grew from there. We built up a clientele – even though there wasn’t a lot of walk-ins, people would outright search for us and come down to visit us.”
When the pair noticed a vacant storefront beside Gameopolis, Hamilton’s newest board game and café, they jumped at the chance to move to a bigger location.
“We thought this would be the perfect location: it’s a bigger place and it’s right by another store that would have a similar target market,” said Thomas. “We thought the stores would complement each other.”
The sisters have already noticed more walk-ins at their downtown location and business has definitely grown since they first started out with simply a table.
In the near future, Thomas hopes they will be able to venture into providing cosplayers with prosthetic ears and fangs.
Cosplay-FTW is looking to set up a booth at Hamilton’s newest convention, the Hammer Town Comic Con to be held in October.
The store will celebrate its grand opening on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4.
Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.