By STEPHANIE BERNABA Ever since The Time Capsule opened its doors at 537 Pontiac Ave. in Cranston in 2003, owner Robert Yeremian has been riding the wild tides of the collectibles trade. Over the past pandemic year, his brick-and-mortar stores - one in
Ever since The Time Capsule opened its doors at 537 Pontiac Ave. in Cranston in 2003, owner Robert Yeremian has been riding the wild tides of the collectibles trade.
Over the past pandemic year, his brick-and-mortar stores – one in Cranston and a sister store in Seekonk – and his eBay shop, OfTimesPast, have experienced a pandemic boom in sales no one saw coming.
The store, which closed early last year per former Gov. Gina Raimondo’s orders, reopened in the spring to find a renewed and energized interest in comics and collectibles.
The store, which sells new and collectible comic books, previously loved music, video games, and toys and figurines, has been so busy helping hobbyists complete their collections, Yeremian not only had to bring back his entire staff upon reopening, but has also sought additional help to keep up with his online sales.
“Once the summer kicked in and Gov. Raimondo allowed 50 percent capacity, that’s when the store really started getting busier,” Yeremian said. “Then when she went to 66 percent capacity, it got even busier after that. And every month since, it’s been either as busy as the one before or busier.”
Yeremian explained after reopening around May, he was nervous to order new comic books at previous levels.
“I was anticipating sales to be slow for a long period of time, but it didn’t turn out that way,” he said.
Last spring, Yeremian told the manager of his Seekonk store, who oversees the ordering of comic books, to cut back so there would be no excess unsold inventory. It only took a month to realize there would be none.
He explained that the average age of his clientele has shifted down slightly during the pandemic, that he’s been seeing many more customers in the 18- to 25-year-old range.
When asked what items leave the shelves the fastest, he said, “It’s all of the above. It’s comics. It’s records. It’s video games.”
“We’re definitely selling rock records greater than ever before,” he added. “I was only dabbling in Pokémon cards before COVID. They have exploded in demand. I can’t get enough stuff anymore.”
He also said that vintage sports cards and basketball cards have skyrocketed, as well as vintage comic books.
“As soon as we pull stuff out and price it up, it’s just going right out the door,” he said.
Yeremian explained he realizes this boom is a temporary situation brought on by life under COVID restrictions.
“I think it’s definitely going to subside,” he said. “I am expecting a slowdown by the Fourth of July. Once people can go on vacations again, they’re not going to spend as much money on their hobbies. The hobbies got a lot of people through COVID.”
“This has just been a nice bonus,” he said. “It was an unintended consequence of what happened. But it’s not going to last forever.”
Because a large portion of his business relies on customers coming in to sell used items, Yeremian admits he worries about recently low levels of stock.
“Every year since I’ve been open, the wintertime is the worst time to buy items from people,” he said. “People don’t want to lug their stuff around in bad weather. And COVID definitely decreased that. I also buy items at estate sales and auctions. And there’s been none of that because of COVID. So, getting product has been somewhat challenging.”
His primary concern at this point, he said, is welcoming back those collectors interested in selling used items. He feels this is necessary to maintain his current edge, and hopes as spring begins to break, the selling crowd will return.
“If anyone has any stuff they want to sell, let me know!” he laughed. “I’m always buying.”
Visit The Time Capsule at 537 Pontiac Ave., its sister store at 1732 Fall River Ave. in Seekonk, or its eBay store, OfTimesPast.