Originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
Remember the large Blockbuster banner sign outside of the now-closed shop? The 14-foot by 7-foot sign is now inside of Beetle Boss — a nostalgic media shop in Soldotna that opened Sunday.
A Blockbuster rug, candy cigarettes, laserdisc players, a Toys “R” Us checkout sign, game cubes and Mario T-shirts are just a few recognizable signs of childhood inside of Beetle Boss.
Beetle Boss owner Jami Sperry, a custodian with the Kenai Peninsula School District, had so many games in his house that he decided to open the store. The majority of Sperry’s games and memorabilia have been collected over the last six months.
“I wasn’t really into games, it was mostly my brother,” Sperry said. “I enjoyed watching him play. I wasn’t very close to him, but when he was playing games he allowed me to be in his room and just watch him. He would let me play once in awhile.”
Sperry said he created the shop to be a safe space.
“It gives a place around here where kids can come in and play games,” Sperry said. “It’s a safe place where if kids are on the street and they don’t know where to go, they can come here, play some games, be safe and stay out of trouble.”
The buy-sell-trade business will also have a back room where TVs will be set up and people can play games onsite.
The shop sells a hodgepodge of items including DVDs, video games, T-shirts, consoles, Magic cards and more. Sperry said he wants to bring the community together over retro products like laserdiscs. Similar in appearance to DVDs and about the size of vinyl records, the discs came out in the 70s and were manufactured until 2009.
For hobbyists interested in watching their laserdisc, Sperry has a couple of laserdisc players for sale as well.
Sperry said he’ll also carry international products, including the Chinese version of the Nintendo 64 console, called the IQue, and retro consoles like Sega and Nintendo.
Sperry wants to support local crafters that fit into his theme. Currently, he’s selling locally knitted stuffed toys shaped like popular cartoon characters.
Sperry said he will start a public Super Mario Kart tournament in September. The public will be able to enter into the six-month tournament, and every month the top three winners will advance. In March, the top 15 will battle it out for a grand prize. People who enter into the tournament will pay a nominal fee, which will, in turn, go into Sperry’s 1974 Miracle Whip jar. The jar is the repository for donations that go to Bridges Community Resource Network, an organization in Soldotna that focuses on social and welfare services for individuals and families.
“I just want to raise money to help people in need, and grow this community,” Sperry said.
Sperry said he hopes to have the shop open every day in the summer from Noon to 5 p.m., inside the Peninsula Center Mall.