Photo by Andrea Paulseth, courtesy of Volume One
Photo by Andrea Paulseth, courtesy of Volume One
Photo by Andrea Paulseth, courtesy of Volume One

We are so grateful to Volume One for doing a feature on Geek Chic! For a little more insight into what makes us tick, here’s the full Q&A. 

Can you introduce yourself? Name, profession (if one separate from Geek Chic), and connection to Geek Chic? 

My name is Dawn Wells and I’m the owner of Geek Chic as well as Sofluence Media which is a Digital Marketing Agency. 

What is Geek Chic all about? What is its main theme/purpose?

Geek Chic is a culmination of half “geek” and half “chic.” It really represents both my husband and me and our individual interests. Our goal is to find new homes for items rather than see them end up in a landfill. We love the history of vintage items we find and either shining them up for them to live on as is, or upcycling them into something new. Sustainability is definitely a focus. 

What are the different products you sell?

We have a great selection of vintage on the Chic side: clothing, décor, glassware, household goods, jewelry, art, furniture, MCM (mid-century modern), pre-loved and collectible clothing (like Harley Davidson), custom and upcycled clothing, handmade cuff bracelets, denim earrings, hair clips, etc. We also have a great tea pot selection as well as tea pots upcycled into planters and garden décor. Other upcycled creations include Tin Men Birdfeeders. We even have a set of mid-century Punch & Judy statues.

On the geek side we have thousands of comic books from silver age to modern, manga, anime, sports memorabilia, board games, cassettes, records, books, statues, action figures, collectibles like Star Wars and Star Trek, Marvel, Disney, Funko Pops, trains, etc.  

Of your products, what are some of your best sellers?

Our pins, stickers, rings, and vintage clothing are especially popular. More and more customers are finding us for our comics, manga, and vintage records.

I read the Our Journey page on your website, but wanted to ask to get a fresh perspective: what was the journey your family took to creating Geek Chic?

Shortly after Tim began buying and selling comic books a few years ago under the business name Pixels ‘n Pages, a near-death medical trauma left him unable to work. We began going to estate sales as a low-impact way to get Tim out of the house and to spend time together. The hunt was addicting and we were especially drawn to items with stories. We just couldn’t allow the history of these often-times unique items to be discarded and forgotten.

After a few years of estate sales, we found ourselves running out of room for all our treasures. We began selling on eBay and opened a booth at The Shed in Altoona, thinking at the very least the booth would be similar to having storage outside of the house with the added bonus of selling a few things.

One booth at The Shed grew into two and then three booths, followed by a booth at The Attic, and a booth at Collective Charm. At the time, a brick-and-mortar store was just a daydream we occasionally entertained. 

During this time, a Banbury Place tenant came to one of our thrift sales and we ended up talking about what a great option Banbury would be for us. We wouldn’t be in a brick-and-mortar store if it wasn’t for that chance conversation with the owner of Allegedly Collectable, Chris McHugh.

What motivated you to keep your husband’s original idea going after his health issues put a bump in the road? How did you expand on it yourself and your inspiration behind that?

One of the things Tim has struggled with is the sudden change from being the main provider of our family to not being able to work. Despite our family assuring him that he shouldn’t feel shame or guilt, he still sometimes feels, as he puts it, “useless.”

While he can not work or run a business on his own, it is something that he can help me with. With our new love of estate sales, vintage, etc, I decided to rebrand the business to Geek Chic and incorporated my passion for vintage items. Tim is the Geek and I’m the Chic. The transition has been good for both his physical and mental health. He’s able to contribute in a limited capacity without feeling like the weight to succeed is entirely on his shoulders. Because our adult kids help out, Tim is able to rest whenever and for as long as he needs to.

We have always had the fortune of being a great team, so the collaboration feels very comfortable and natural. We never get tired of working together and we genuinely value each other’s opinions and ideas.

The move to Banbury: how has that change/expansion to your business been? What was the inspiration for it and what was the process like?

Earlier this year, I was chosen as a finalist for a spot in the upcoming Altoona container park project. The idea of having our own shop was exciting but we decided that the added responsibility wasn’t the right fit for our family right now, so I withdrew from the applicant list.

When a space in Banbury Place opened up, we were still pretty nervous about having a store that needed staffing, but the ability to set our own hours was the push we needed to give it a shot.

We started out in a small space that was more storage than store. We had no windows and only opened during the quarterly Banbury markets. When our current space opened up, we decided to make another leap of faith. The increased size and exposure has been great for us. It allows us to have regular store hours and display a lot of items that were stored away. Not to mention the natural light from the windows, which makes such a difference in both the feel of the store and our mental health.

The owners of Banbury Place have been awesome to work with which made the transition between spaces pretty painless. They’re very generous about giving tenants the freedom to make spaces their own.

Where are you located in the Banbury building? Hours the same as they’ve been on your website?

We are in Suite 3, which is the very first shop you’ll see when you use the Historical Stores entrance with the green awning. Our current hours and upcoming events are always posted on our website and the door of our shop. We’re starting with limited hours but are open to increasing our hours as traffic increases. 

I saw that an Online Store is coming “soon”: do you have an estimation of when that will be and/or what people can expect from the Online Store?

We don’t want to have an online store just for the sake of having one, so we’re waiting until we have time to properly devote ourselves to it. When we do, we don’t want it to be a carbon copy of the items already in the shop. We want the online store to feel unique and interesting.

I would estimate you’ll be able to shop our online store sometime in the first quarter of 2024.

What do you hope people feel/get out of Geek Chic? Why should they stop by your store?

We hope people feel safe to be who they are without judgment or negativity. Our demographics vary wildly and we love that. Geek Chic is all about mixing genres and different interests, and nothing makes us happier than when people from all walks of life can feel a sense of nostalgia and wonder. Every person has a unique story based on their own experiences and that makes them feel less like customers and more like friends.

The truth is, Geek Chic started out as a place to pursue our own passions. We get to enjoy items in the shop rather than our house. When people come into the shop, they’re really seeing who we are in the things we carry. When an item finds a new home, we share in the joy felt by the new owner. There’s nothing quite like reconnecting people with items they’ve been searching for or items they never thought they’d see again.

What do you hope/dream for the future of Geek Chic?

Developing a good reputation within the community will always be our primary goal. We want people to feel comfortable and excited when they walk through our doors. We hope they come away from their visit feeling seen and respected. If we can help people feel better than when they entered the shop, we’ve done a good job regardless of how many sales we’ve made that day. Selling things is nice and it pays the bills, but making people happy enough to tell their friends about us is more gratifying than any amount of money. 

We hope to expand on our Geek Chic Originals, like upcycled clothing and handmade items. We’re a creative family and we would love for Geek Chic to become our primary outlet for that creativity.

We hope to eventually develop our own board and card games. Tim designed some games that our family and friends have been playing for decades. Actually having those games see the light of day is a dream that has seemed unrealistic for a long time. But maybe a Geek Chic Games division isn’t so far fetched after all. 

Tim is also pretty determined to eventually finish in the top three of the Volume One Reader Poll categories that fit us.

Anything I haven’t asked that you feel the people should know? 

What you see on our shelves today is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve still got a lot of items waiting to be processed and displayed. There’s a good chance you’ll spot something new every week. We can also special order a number of geek items including games, anime, manga, toys, etc.

We’re very grateful for the reception we’ve received from our visitors and Banbury Place neighbors. We’ll continue to strive to become a trusted and favorite destination for all ages and interests. We really appreciate the time people take to read this article and visit our shop.