A Collector’s Mecca In Kaimuki

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - November 16, 2005
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Robert Lai’s Collector Maniacs shop is just stuffed
Robert Lai’s Collector Maniacs shop is just

Robert Lai surrounds himself with DVDs of Japanese anime, comic books, and action figures in his Kaimuki store, Collector Maniacs, which celebrates its eighth anniversary this month.

This entrepreneur says his 800-square-foot store is stuffed, “and we stuff it a little more.”

The Aina Haina resident’s shop is filled with Transformers, plush anime toys, trading cards and comic action figures of Superman and Batman.

Customers can buy or rent the DVDs, as sometimes clients want to catch up with parts of the earlier episodes of the cartoons at their own pace.

“Just because you like something, doesn’t mean others will like it,” he says. For example, one of the series he enjoys is Rurouni Kenshin, which is a cartoon series about a wandering Japanese swordsman.

Another popular series is the Naruta cartoon, which is about a boy attending Ninja school. Lai says some people compare this to Harry Potter attending the wizard school.

Lai notes that his customers range from intermediate school age to senior citizens. “High school girls and women like Manga, while men like the comics,” he reveals. He offers a year-round special for his customers: 25 percent off comic books and Manga items.

As a child, Lai watched Sha Brothers martial arts movies at the old Empress and Liberty theaters in downtown Honolulu. He now carries those movies in his store. The 1990 Kalani grad’s past work experience includes working as a newspaper carrier, and in retail. And in his experience running his own business, he’s faced many challenges and, he admits, “It’s never ending, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get a handle on it, especially the taxes.”

He says one lesson he’s learned is that there’s lots to learn. And as an entrepreneur there’s no such thing as a day off.

“When I’m not at the shop, I’m doing something related to the shop,” Lai explains.

As far as bringing any new merchandise into the already packed store, Lai says, “You never know - if I find something I like or if one of the customers turns me on to something.”

The inventory includes action figures from wrestling, and even The Family Guy. “It’s like our own little TV station; we have all the merchandise,” Lai says.

Collector Maniacs is located at 3571 Waialae Ave. between 11th and 12th avenues. The store is open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 739-3912.

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