Acme Superstore is a one of a kind business that started from humble aspirations to become a must visit location for collectors and perusers of comics and toys. It was founded in 1980 by Terry Dinkins, who had been a comic enthusiast since childhood. Due to that love, he amassed a small collection of comics, including his prized Amazing Spiderman #1. Later, when he was grown up and married, he sold that comic for $850 from his own home. That sale, in addition to Terry’s ambition and confidence, convinced his wife Victoria to start a business in Comics and Toys together.
They began their enterprise in a few small store locations around the Longwood area, along with stands at the local flea market. They also traveled to local comic conventions, which were much smaller in the 1980s than the 100,000 person, weekend long events they are now. Eventually they moved to their current location at the corner of 434 and 17/92, only occupying a small corner of the building. Over time their demand expanded so much that section by section, they took over the entire building, whose windows are now covered in the huge comic page images that greet customers today. Their sudden and prolonged expansion is unusual, because most comic stores don’t last as long as Acme has, over 23 years.
The success of this now second generation business is the customers, says current owner Josh Dinkins, son of the founder, Terry. “Customers are the lifeblood” of Acme, says Dinkins. Customers bring in collections they have kept from childhood, which they often store away in their closets and garages for years and aren’t sure what to do with. Friends will tell them to bring them over to the people at Acme. Acme will happily buy them, keeping them in the store until a new owner comes in and sees the comic as the piece they have been looking to display or give to their own children to enjoy. Dinkins is always amazed at what customers give him. He comes in each day wondering what he will get next.
A Labyrinth of Toys
Whole collections of the toys he's gotten from customers are particularly eye catching. They abound in endless halls of glass case displays, which divide the sections of the store into a museum hall of pieces that encourage you to gawk, but also touch. Rare Godzilla toys, donated by a collector who got them all the way in Japan, are a recent addition. Other collection include hard to find Harry Potter, Transformers, X-Files, Lord of the Rings, Ghost Busters, GI Joes, Power Rangers, and of course, Star Wars toys amongst others, all given the display treatment.
Customers give him larger pieces as well, including the roughly four foot tall, six foot long Silver Surfer. This silver monolith is impossible not to notice atop his pantheon of comic cartons at the front of the store. The customer put the statue in his truck and brought the figure straight to the store, where he traded the statue for credit to buy comics. The arrangement was a win-win for both parties, and the statue, a perfect symbol of the bond between customer and local store, is proudly put on display every day to new customers who walk in. Other examples of decor given by customers include the interactive Lego superhero displays as well as the dozens of life-size movie cutout displays of Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Characters like these are especially popular due to the rise in popularity of superhero shows and movies. Products for TV shows like the Flash, Superman, and the denizens of Batman’s Gotham are always made available because of this worldwide phenomena. Marvel movies like Spiderman and Ironman, in addition to the other Avengers and recently Venom, are also hugely popular.
Comics depicting these characters are an especially big draw, but strong comic sales were not always so dependable for the store. In 1996, the comic market experienced a meltdown, when the price of comics dropped dramatically, forcing many comic stores to close. It was a precarious moment for Acme. Fortunately, Acme has always specialized in both comics and toys. This diversity allowed them to fare well, and even thrive during this time, eventually becoming the area’s dominant comic and toy store.
The Orlando area in particular has become a hotbed for comic selling. Acme lies right in the center of this activity. So many customers fly or drive in to stay at the parks, but also to take a trip right to Acme. Customers flying in all the way from Brazil are especially common. Orlando is the most popular destination in the US for tourism from Brazil, and Dinkins estimates that he gets around 50 customers from Brazil every week. Those customers often arrive with whole suitcases, ready to fill them with memorabilia and of course, comics.
Many prized and rare comics can be found in the current collection at the store, like another Amazing Spiderman #1, now worth around $10,000. Other rare pieces include Spiderman’s first full length appearance anywhere in Amazing Fantasy issue 15, which is valued at around $31,000 in its current condition. It's one of the most popular comic finds of all time, especially with Spiderman’s present popularity.
Dinkins plans on expanding the already impressive display of around 900,000 comics he has out on display at the moment. That’s not a typo, nearly a million, and he has over 300,000 more in his overstock room, which he doesn’t have room to display. When he expands his comic displays, with plans to move more comics into his event area, he estimates that he will have the largest comic collection on display in any store in the world. He plans on dividing this impressive array by publisher. Marvel will get their own section, likely protected by the 10 foot or so hulk statue that stands guards in one corner of the premises. DC, Dark Horse, and smaller publishers and new comics will get their own sections as well. His display of new comics will draw attention too, as it will become the biggest collection of new comics on display anywhere else as well.
On top of these already lofty ambitions, Dinkins also wants to collaborate with one of his employees to start producing comics right out of the store itself. Acme would begin its very own Acme publishing label, using local artists. He is also thinking of making it even easier for those fans who come from all over the world to shop at his shop, by collaborating with the helicopter transport companies, which abound in the parks areas of Orlando. Customers would be flown directly to the store, to land right at the store's own personal helipad. These Lex Luthor sized ambitions are proof of what Dinkins says is his goal to become “bigger and badder” than anyone else. As Acme continues its rise, its fans certainly are seeing Acme well on its way to continuing on making its Longwood store a true Mecca of comics and toys.
Dinkins has no plans to move anywhere to achieve his ambitions. He says he simply has the best customers in the world and would have no reason to go elsewhere. His customers come to him, and he and his ten staff members have their work cut out for them fulfilling their ever-growing interests.