AN ANDOVER man is achieving his dream of opening up his own comic book store. 

Stuart Gatward will open his new shop The Geek Emporium, in Waterloo Court, on Friday, December 4.

The business was originally due to open in November, but had to be pushed back following the introduction of a second national lockdown.

Stuart says that his interest in collectibles and ‘geeky’ pursuits came from his childhood, when he said that he used to “play with toys all the time". 

“One of my first and most treasured memories are of playing with diecast model cars with my Grandfather. I liked watching a lot of the noughties cartoon, film, and TV reruns, but it was watching Star Wars that really brought out the geek in me," he told The Advertiser. 

After moving from Sussex when he was younger, Stuart has lived and worked in Andover for most of his life. While he’s been away for periods of his life, he says that Andover keeps making him return.

“I’ve occasionally moved to somewhere like London, Winchester, or New Zealand for a while; but there’s always something that brings you back,” he said.

It was after one of these return journeys when he first started selling collectibles.

“When I moved back from New Zealand, I had so many boxes of toys, comic books, and other collectables in my parents loft that I couldn't fit them into my flat so I had to start selling a few things. I started with car boot sales, then a few fairs and conventions, and eventually a pop-up shop.”

Stuart said that it was “great fun” to meet people with similar interests, and learn about the different passions they had, when he was running his pop-up. This allowed him to consider the possibility of opening his own bricks and mortar business.

“So many people I met at events or the pop-up shop were very encouraging about me having my own shop,” he said. “Obviously there's a huge difference between having a small stall and running an actual shop, but I really liked the idea and did always dream of having my own comic book store one day. I just had to wait for the right opportunity to come along.”

After seeing an advert from Andover’s BID for the unit on Waterloo Court, Stuart decided to give it a go, describing it as a “fantastic opportunity". 

He said: “Being able to have a physical shop means that there is an actual place to go to all year round, and there's more space for everything rather than having to pack only a few things in my car. I will still do events but I'm going to have to get a trailer now!”

He's hoping to offer a wide range of items in his shop, to cover the many different interests that his customers have.

“Geek is a very broad term,” Stuart said, “and that's what I looking to offer; to have as many different passions as there can be. The majority of the products are pop culture based, but there's always other intriguing and unique items that can be found.”

The Geek Emporium is located at 9 Waverly Buildings, Waterloo Court, and will be open over the next few weeks on Thursdays from 10am-5pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am-8pm and Sundays from 10am-4pm.