Small Town Store Draws Big Time Fans
The new season of "Doctor Who" premieres this weekend and the co-owner of a store in Camby dedicated to the long-running British science-fiction series says creating a relationship with other fans of the show is key to the store's success. Keith Bradbury runs Who North America alongside his wife, Jany, and tells Inside INdiana Business he wants to become a destination for like-minded fans to share their love of the show, which has been around for more than half a century.
"We've always had this really close tie with the fan base in Indiana," said Bradbury. "We realize that we are only going to succeed if we can become something that the fan, the nerds, the geeks and all those groups like that really think, 'Oh this is a great place to be. This is where we can go and feel normal. And we can celebrate our love of a television show' and that's what we've tried to become: Is a destination where people want to come. And they want to bring their friends who like 'Doctor Who.'"
Bradbury began selling "Doctor Who" merchandise online in the late 90s after contacting companies in the United Kingdom to find the items for himself. Since then, Who North America has grown to become the only store in North America solely dedicated to "Doctor Who." After being located in a warehouse on the southwest side of Indianapolis, the store moved to its current location in Camby in 2016.
Bradbury says the combination of the brick-and-mortar retail location and his online store creates a balance necessary to stay in business.
"We'll have maybe 100 people or so come in for a Saturday. But then during the week, you know, on slow days, you may only have a couple people come in and then you may have a few dozen. It just really kind of fluctuates a lot," said Bradbury. "We are still kept alive by our online company. It's one of those things where we have to have both: the online company and the walk-in traffic. Put them both together, we can stay in business. If we lost either one of those, we couldn't do it."
In addition to the toys, action figures, DVDs, apparel and other merchandise available at the store, Who North America also features the "Museum of Merchandise," which showcases all types of "Doctor Who" items dating back to the 1960s. Fans can also play a classic "Doctor Who" pinball machine and the store regularly hosts community events for fans to not only celebrate their favorite television show, but also support local charities.
Bradbury says he wants the store to be an "experience," not just retail.
"We are trying to be kind of a destination spot. Instead of flying all the way to London and trying to find all the Doctor Who stuff that you'd find in the universe there, you can come over here in Indiana and you can find a Doctor Who universe right here in the middle of the state."
Doctor Who airs on BBC AMERICA Saturdays at 9/8c.