EVERETT — Jenny Marts has been driving by the big building on the corner of Wetmore Avenue and California Street for months, waiting for the day the doors would open.
There have been clues of the fun inside — giant statues of Harry Potter and Spider-man standing sentry on awnings over large display windows and a retro neon sign jutting from the corner of the brick building that once housed a department store and more recently a Christian college.
Marts even got a sneak peek the other day. She stood on the sidewalk outside the new Funko flagship toy store and an accommodating worker opened the front door, giving the Marysville woman a glimpse into the whimsical space inside.
By late Saturday morning, Marts and her husband, Aaron, had tickets in hand. They had camped out overnight with hundreds of others, hoping to be among the first 1,000 people welcomed inside as the Everett-based company opened its new headquarters.
“I’m here to get Emerald Freddy,” Jenny Marts said, referring to an exclusive Pop! figure offered for the day’s events. The vinyl figures are the toy company’s star attraction. Funko also makes apparel, home decor and stuffed figures called Plushies.
“I’m here for back up and moral support,” Marts’ husband said.
Saturday’s grand opening drew folks from across the globe, including Brazil, Europe and Saudi Arabia, Funko CEO and President Brian Mariotti told the crowd before the doors opened.
“Our fans are why we do this,” he said.
He joked that hardcore fans — who call themselves Funatics — would no longer have to go dumpster diving outside the warehouse in a south Everett corporate park, digging for discarded toys.
“I don’t think there’s a retail space in North America like it,” Mariotti said of his company’s new headquarters.
— The Herald (@EverettHerald) August 19, 2017
The 17,000-square-foot store is meant to be an experience, not just a place to pick up the latest merchandise. It’s divided into worlds devoted to fan favorites: Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Star Wars and Disney.
Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson praised Mariotti for his vision and welcomed him to downtown.
“This is going to put Everett on the map,” the mayor told the crowd. “We’re a little different up here. We’re a little gritty but we have a lot of fun.”
Mariotti said his company is looking forward to becoming a part of the neighborhood. The artists will be welcoming kids to Funko University for art lessons on the weekends. The company on Saturday also handed over a $50,000 check to Cocoon House, a nonprofit that serves homeless youth in Snohomish County.
There were plenty of treats for pop culture fans, including appearances by actor and director Kevin Smith and some of the cast of Comic Book Men, a reality TV show on AMC set in Smith’s comic book store. Funko unveiled Pop! figures of the cast.
“You’re nobody unless you’ve been popped,” Smith said.
Smith and the cast signed autographs and posed for photographs. The show has been filming at Funko in recent days.
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) August 19, 2017
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) August 19, 2017
Spencer Stephens and his sons, Calvin, 8, and Sawyer, 5, came up from Seattle in hopes of scoring some tickets. They were in line by 6:45 a.m. but were turned away. Funko had told fans that there would be no camping out for tickets but by Friday morning people were lining up.
Tickets were gone in less than an hour. At least 2,000 people had lined up.
Stephens still had a shopping bag full of merchandise. He and his sons favor Seahawks and Marvel Comics characters. He has been buying Pop! figures from Everett Comics for years. He’ll keep supporting the store. “We want to make sure these guys stick around,” he said.
His boys posed for pictures in front of a giant Iron Man set up in the middle of Wetmore Avenue.
So did Erin Collins and her 16-year-old daughter Mya. They flew up from San Antonio, Texas on Thursday for the opening. They were in line for tickets by early Saturday morning, unaware that the line had started the day before.
“We’re disappointed,” Erin Collins said. “We hope to come back tomorrow.”
Mom and daughter each have their own Pop! collection. Willy Wonka and TV shows, such as Breaking Bad and Walking Dead, are favorites on mom’s list. Mya Collins likes the Disney princesses. Together they’ve collected about 200 vinyl figures.
“There so fun and cute,” Erin Collins.
Michael Schopler and his 16-year-old daughter came from Naperville, Illinois, to meet up with other Funatics, who they’ve gotten to know through the online forum. Funko set aside some tickets for those folks and they were among the first to go in.
Schopler said collecting the Pop! figures is a family hobby. He’s a fan of Star Wars. His kids like Harry Potter, the Nightmare Before Christmas and video game characters.
“You get one in the house and they grow like rabbits,” he said. “Funko gets a lot of my money.”
Mariotti knows how to feed the collecting bug, Schopler said. The company puts out exclusives and limited editions that keep collectors coming back for more.
Funko has grown from $40 million a year in revenue in 2014 to a $400 million company last year.
The Marts contributed to the company’s bottom line Saturday, grabbing that exclusive Emerald Freddy and others.
“We spent a lot of money,” Jenny Marts said.
It was a little hectic in the store as some shoppers pushed and grabbed for merchandise. The Marts plan to go back when things quiet down a bit.
“It’s amazing. There’s so much to see. It reminded me of Disneyland and it’s just right down the road,” Jenny Marts said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.