If you’re thinking of indulging in your superhero fantasy or are in need of some superpowers because you’re having a bad day, then the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company is your one-stop store for guaranteed success.
Nestled inconspicuously amid quaint bakeries, tiny boutiques and pet clinics on 5th Avenue in Park Slope, the store could easily be mistaken for a costume shop, hardware or toy store by a passer-by.
But don’t be fooled by its black-and-white, garage-like exterior. Inside, its steel shelves are packed with shiny containers of Gumption, X-Ray Vision, Doom and Gloom, jars of invisibility paint, shiny capes and secret identity kits. The Harry Potter-like atmosphere is a treat for clientele of all ages to tap into their playful side and explore the world of superheroes.
“We really try and uphold the heroic concept,” said Chris Molnar, 24, the store manager and creative force behind many of its products. “For instance, if someone walks in to buy something for a friend who is having a bad day, he would find a can of omnipotence instead of a can of happiness.”
And that’s not all customers will find. By stocking up on a needed superpower, a superhero-in-training performs a heroic deed that is in sync with the goodwill a superhero spreads. In fact the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company is actually a front for the 826NYC program, a nonprofit that offers free, after-school tutoring services to kids between the ages of 6 and 18 on a first-come, first-serve basis. All of the proceeds from the superhero-themed products and memorabilia go toward funding the program.
The learning lab is accessible through a trick bookshelf, which takes you to a spacious room at the back of the store. Wooden tables and chairs dot hardwood floor, and the room is stocked with books – fables, comics, poetry, short story, young-adult, Japanese Manga — and films of all kinds to encourage creativity, learning and written expression by the children.
Molnar, who runs the story with six other people, explained how the company got its start. “Author Dave Eggers started the 826 nationally, and the first store was based on a pirate theme in San Francisco,” he said. There are currently eight stores with different themes all over the country. “When you think of superheroes –whether it’s Superman, Spiderman or Batman, the classic place that comes to mind is New York. So they went with the superhero theme here,” he explained.
While the busiest seasons for business are Halloween and Christmas, Molnar innovates new products and equipment throughout the year. “Many of our raw materials are given to us for free or really cheap so I try and incorporate them into inventing new products,” he said. His latest concoction is a “Civilian Assimilation Kit,” which is a leather-bound pouch containing different colored pill bottles of Mediocrity, Self Control, Obedience and the like. No item in the store is more than $40.
“We had a couple of pill bottles that were sitting around, and I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I painted the bottles and tagged them with quirky labels,” he said. Molnar also said that all of the items in the store should be taken with a dose of tongue-in-cheek humor.
For those in search in a superhero’s quintessential cape, for example the store has just the thing: A cape-testing chamber which allows customers to try on capes while being blasted with a high-powered fan so as to mime superheroes flying in swooshing winds.
Other thematic items include a regular duster that has been labeled as a “sea anemone sword” perfect for an underwater superhero and a butterfly net for a flying superhero to capture bad dreams in mid-air.
Most of the products are not meant for actual usage, but the marketing prowess and sheer ingenuity behind the concept of the store makes it tick. “Just as how someone would go to Home Depot or Lowe’s to buy paint, the notion is that a superhero would come here to stock up,” said Molnar. The difference of course, he says, “It’s what you make of the stuff here. Use your imagination.”
The entire superhero experience is incomplete without the final superhero vow that needs to be professed after every purchase!