The ‘stuff store’
Can Dimple Records’ successor—which resells all things pop culture—overcome pop minimalism?
Sharing the same parking lot as the DMV on East Bidwell Street in Folsom—at the old 9,000-square-foot space of Dimple Records—is a bold, supposedly new idea.
The marquee spells out the mantra: “Buy-Sell-Trade.” The windows are plastered with the message: WWE, Betty Boop, Neil Diamond and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Inside, DVDs and CDs are center-stage on the racks, but the remaining displays aren’t quite right. There are random things everywhere. Freddy Krueger’s razored glove is next to The Encyclopedia of Jazz. A Jedi doll leans on Bumps and Grinds, a strip-drinking board game from 1967. A Les Paul guitar is perched next to synthesizers, next to a drum kit, next to Nintendo welcome mats.
Elvis Presley would never imagine himself near Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, but he’s reborn through a new prototype store by some of the folks behind Dimple.
At The Cave, the merchandise—collectible clothes, video games, comic books, toys, music, music equipment and much more—is mostly from the closets and storage spaces of Sacramento-area hoarders and traders and then resold from the buyback counter. There’s no specialty, but it’s not a thrift store.
And it’s all about one thing.
“We’re basically celebrating the greatest decades—the ’80s, the ’90s, even the ’70s and double aughts,” says co-founder Andrew Radakovitz, who was 5 years old when Dimple, the family business, opened in 1974.
“If you’re just a comic book shop, and that’s all you do … I’m doing all these ideas under one roof, and the synergy is pop culture.”
Dimple closed in September and The Cave opened in October. On a recent Saturday night, the clothing section’s glass center-counter was piled with heavy metal T-shirts, and the CDs weren’t fully alphabetized. But the rest of the disarray is intentional.
“What we do here is chaos,” says Brian McCulloch, The Cave’s other owner and a Dimple manager-graphic designer since 1987 who created Dimple’s logo and its panicked mascot. “We want you to browse. We want you to shop … We don’t have wrestling in one spot. We don’t have all the Pops! in one spot. They’re everywhere. A lot of people are like, ’Where’s this?’”
The sprawl is meant to dust off memories, drawing customers’ attention to a Joel Schumacher-era Batmobile, then a Sheriff Woody doll tragically preserved in 25-year-old, Burger King-branded plastic.
The owners insist that magic is happening, that they’re tapping into a phenomenon that will overcome Amazon and the death of brick-and-mortar retail—the same factors that helped lead to Dimple’s demise. Indeed, they are already planning to expand.
“It’s the fans, the people who like stuff,” Radakovitz says. “And they just want the stuff. And we’re a stuff store. That’s what we do. We’re all about stuff, and churning stuff.”
But do people really want more stuff? Can The Cave keep the nostalgia trip going?
‘It’s the elephants’
The most expensive items are at the front counter. For $170, you can have an immaculate vinyl of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack, composed by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page for the 1972 short film. An authentic Japanese Pachinko machine (ashtray included) runs $200; a life-size Operation board game, 3D-printed in Auburn, costs $500.
“It’s meant for lying down, but I think it’d be a good painting, or piece of art on a wall,” Radakovitz says.
Prices for rare memorabilia can approach fine art. A Metallica T-shirt from 1983, when the band released its first album, can run more than $700, Radakovitz says.
The chaos—and fun—starts at the buyback counter. A recent acquisition included original Dungeons & Dragons character guidebooks for $10 to $20. New finds are regularly posted to Instagram, and some items—such as a Superman action figure that looks exactly like actor Henry Cavill—fly off the shelves the same day.
But for the younger generation, market trends could be moving toward less clutter. A recent Harris Poll and Eventbrite survey found that 78% of millennials prefer experiences over things, compared to 68% of Baby Boomers.
While the minimalist lifestyle may be trending, Radakovitz and McCulloch say they’re seeing the opposite. The 2019 Las Vegas Toy Con drew 60,000 attendees over three days in March. In Tucson, Ariz., Slobby’s World is a tourist attraction, and the pop-culture store has its own Netflix show.
“Japan’s been doing it for decades … They’re pop-culture fanatics, addicts, actually,” Radakovitz says. He says The Cave is modeled after stores in Japan.
There’s potentially big money in nostalgia; profit margins can be 60% to 90%, Radakovitz says. Most people are nostalgic about something in their childhood: Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, Disney, Marvel.
“Why was there a resurgence in vinyl? It’s the elephants,” Radakovitz says. “They go back to the place they were born, and they go back to the bones of their ancestors, and they grieve over those bones, and they dig into the earth, and that’s what people do here. They want to relive that stuff.”
Danny Miller and his son hobbled to the buyback counter, arms full of about 50 rock T-shirts, only a fraction of his collection. At his Roseville home, a whole bedroom is dedicated to music memorabilia, including thousands of CDs. “At some point, you get so much stuff. … I know it’s worth something to somebody, and I just want it gone,” he says.
He took around $175 for the shirts and used about $60 to buy Fear Inoculum, the new Tool CD.
Radakovitz is betting on the buyback counter. Tower Records shuttered in 2004 in part because it only sold expensive, new products at a 30% or lower margin, he says. Dimple survived because of trade-ins, but the legacy lines—CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays— weren’t enough, and seven locations within a small radius meant they were cannibalizing themselves, he says.
Assuming the prototype store in Folsom does well, the owners plan a careful expansion in the Sacramento area, likely only one more local store before reaching into Nevada, Utah and further east.
“Everything we do here is so counter-intuitive to what Dimple did,” McCulloch says. “People came in for commodities, people come here to browse. Every time we buy something, we put pictures on Instagram, and they rush in here. We couldn’t do the same thing with Dimple.”
It’s also more fun. As pop-culture junkies, they’re constantly discovering—and valuing—new treasures.
“You’re going through really cool stuff everyday,” Radakovitz says. “It’s a good time.”