About The Owner
The sawing voices of WWE commentators and the guttural chants of the crowd rumbled out from an overhead TV set at Primos Collectibles’ new St. James location. Customers filed in and out as the late afternoon sun set the store aglow.
For owner Graeme Keam, visiting a brick-and-mortar store for toys, memorabilia, and media is an experience; an environment he wants to provide for west Winnipeg.
"You can find anything online, people just like to shop in person because they like it," Keam said. "I wish there was a store like this when I was a kid."
Primos Collectibles (1841 Portage Ave.) fills a gap in the area, following the closure of a comic book store a few years ago, Keam said. He added that the new store saves some of the regulars a trip across town to the Primos Collectibles in West Kildonan.
"We’re just trying to keep the same hours and the same days as the other store and build a following in the neighborhood," Keam said.
The shelves at Primos Collectibles are filled with immaculately arranged pieces. Curio cabinets are stacked tight with over nostalgia-inspiring 100 wrestling figures from the ages. Sci-fi novels line wire shelves — ready to be bought and exchanged through the store’s book program. Hot Wheels, in their signature ocean-blue packaging, dangle four or five deep from hooks.
A collection of 16 wrestling championship belts dominate a wall near the back of the store. Keam brings out one of the replica belts. It weighs 18 pounds.
"You’re not getting one of these at Toys "R" Us, I’ll tell you that," Keam said. "If people want belts — at least in Manitoba, anyway — we’re the only game in town for that."
A couple recently ordered a set of custom belts from Keam that they exchanged in lieu of wedding rings. The belts now hang above their bed, Keam said.
"We get a lot of the dads that just want to buy a toy to spend time with their kids," Keam said. "I enjoy when a kid walks in and says, ‘I’ve been looking for this everywhere.’"
The shopkeeper dubbed Primos Collectibles the "un-thrift store." The shop accepts a slew of entertainment-related items in exchange for money.
"Unless you’ve got really good stuff, you’re not going to get rich out of the deal, but you’re going to get rather something than nothing," Keam said.
Keam founded Primos Collectibles in 2008 and now employs six staff. "It doesn’t feel like a job; it never has."
Like the customers who discover new treasures at Primos Collectibles, Keam has pursued this career, in part, because it gives him access to rare stock, but also because of the connections it has fostered.
Keam, who has a degree in business administration, offers a student work program. Tec-Voc High School and John Pritchard School are a couple of the schools that have taken part. In store, the students learn interview skills, customer service, and marketing tools — to name a few.
"Anything community-based, it’s fantastic, I wish there was more of it," Keam said.
Both Primos Collectibles locations are open from 11 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.