MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Sept. 6, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Sept. 6, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Near-death experience planted seeds for downtown Everett toy store

Former attorney Tom Harrison survived 9/11. It caused him to ask what’s important in life. Today, he runs MyMyToyStore.

EVERETT — What’s important?

Tom Harrison asked the question in the days and years following Sept. 11, 2001.

The former New York City attorney was at Ground Zero when terrorists flew two passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Harrison’s answer, his love for his son and a love for toys, led him to found MyMyToyStore, an online toy store.

“I had a near-death experience that day and when I came face to face with my mortality and then didn’t die, I looked at my life and made the changes I thought were going to make me happy.” Harrison said.

But those changes came slowly.

He survived the wall of dust and ashes and then spent another 10 years running from its phantom.

“Anytime something was going wrong, I stopped and I ran,” Harrison said. “It took me a good eight to 10 years to stop running.”

He switched law firms. He moved west to Colorado in 2011.

By 2018, he had quit his job as a Denver-based contract attorney and launched MyMyToyStore.com, an e-commerce website that sells pop culture toys.

“It’s a Black-owned company that celebrates the imagination, wonder and fun in pop culture,” Harrison said.

Tom Harrison laughs with a customer as they use the Nerf Range at his store on Sept. 6, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Tom Harrison laughs with a customer as they use the Nerf Range at his store on Sept. 6, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“It was founded from a childhood spent reading comic books, playing with Star Wars and G.I. Joe with Kung Fu grip action figures, watching every super- and sci-fi hero on the big and small screen, and filling the space in between with MTV,” Harrison said.

He named the business after his son, Michael, who is fluent in Mandarin.

“Mei Mei means Michael,” said Harrison, who changed the spelling to MyMy.

Two years ago, Harrison met an Everett woman on a Zoom call.

In August 2021, he moved to Snohomish County — “for love,” he said.

He began searching for a space that could serve as a fulfillment center for his online business.

Downtown Everett spoke to him.

Funko, Everett Comics, Black Lab Gallery Bar and other businesses pointed to a flourishing arts and business community.

“It has a strong pop culture scene layed on top of a social and arts scene,” Harrison said.

Instead of warehouse space, he found retail space on Hewitt Avenue, next to Artisan Books & Coffee.

“I decided to do a very risky thing and open the storefront I always wanted to,” Harrison said. “What I like about Everett is that my business neighbors are not waiting for Everett to pop, we are making it pop.”

A lego mosaic of the MyMyToyStore.com logo hangs on the wall on Sept. 6, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A lego mosaic of the MyMyToyStore.com logo hangs on the wall on Sept. 6, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

It’s MyMy Toy Store!

In November 2021, Harrison opened MyMyToyStore at 1806 Hewitt Ave.

The shelves are stocked with Funko Pops, Super Heroes, Marvel Legend and DC Comics action figures, Nerf balls and retro games. Check out the 1967 version of Battleship.

The walls are covered in local art. The paintings of Everett artist Jamie Curtismith ripple with color.

“The store is a reflection of the inside of my mind,” Harrison said, laughing.

He turned a back wall and a closet into paint-splashed Nerf ranges.

“You can come here and shoot Nerf blasters,” he said.

Each week, the store hosts an art class taught by local graffiti artists.

His company logo, the image of a blue fist, inside an orange and yellow starburst, pays homage to the symbol for Black power.

“I wanted to subtly reference my heritage as an African-American,” Harrison said.

Pop culture has a dark side, he said.

”Its history includes open expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. It openly traded in stereotypes,” Harrison said. “Fortunately, the old currency is being retired and replaced with a currency based on authentic storytelling and expression.”

The transformation has been slow but deliberate thanks to a new generation of “bold creatives that pushed themselves in front of the camera, grabbed microphones, and put imagination to paper so that long-suppressed voices and experiences could be seen and heard,” Harrison said.

“While a piece of plastic, die-cast, or vinyl will not change the world, these mini pieces of art can at least reflect and celebrate the best our planet’s cultures have to offer,” he said.

Inside the MyMyToyStore.com storefront on Sept. 6, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Inside the MyMyToyStore.com storefront on Sept. 6, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

On a recent morning, Cody Malik, who works at Angel of the Winds Arena, popped into the store on to see what was new on the shelves.

“I was really excited to see a new store in town competing with Funko and also different toys and things,” said Malik, who discovered Harrison’s store 10 months ago.

Everett has been a welcoming place, Harrison said.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin attended the store’s ribbon cutting ceremony last year. Business and retail neighbors and the Everett Downtown Association have been “super supportive,” he said.

Still, being a store owner can be a lonely pursuit, Harrison said.

“I question myself every day,” he said. “Why am I doing this? How am I going to make this work?”

When he needs answers, he turns to his neighbors.

“Because of the business community here, I can ask those questions and get feedback,” Harrison said. “They’re really good at problem solving, and that’s really helpful on a daily basis.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. (BadgleyPhotography.com / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.

Erika Heer, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank
Quiet Quitting – the good, bad and what to do about it

Mid-summer, the term ‘quiet quitting’ became a part of the vocabulary of… Continue reading

Customers walk in and out of Fred Meyer along Evergreen Way on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Store managers in Everett plead for help with crime, public safety

Two Fred Meyer stores report theft, drug use and threats, despite increased security and presence from Everett police.