Kenneth Cushing, pictured here, and business partner Erik Oparowske, recently took their passion for comic books, vintage toys, signed sports memorabilia and gaming to market with the opening of their new store "Pop Culture" on Route 27 in Raymond. (GRETYL MACALASTER PHOTO)
RAYMOND - Kenneth Cushing began collecting comic books and vintage toys as a child - and never stopped. His passion, he said, bordered on hoarding, a problem he shared with friend and business partner Erik Oparowske.
"I used to read comic books all the time and go to yard sales and flea markets each week, and I acquired a mass quantity of stuff," Cushing said.
The two decided to take their collections to market and recently opened a store called Pop Culture on Route 27 in Raymond. Pop Culture features everything from vintage Superman lunchboxes and puzzles to current Star Wars collectables, signed sports memorabilia, vintage toys and a wide assortment of games.
The signatures on each piece of signed sports memorabilia are witnessed by the business partners or otherwise professionally authenticated.
Cushing said they have also started planning various gaming nights to be held regularly in the store, including nights for Magic, Dungeons & Dragons and Catan. Wednesday nights have already been designated as Pathfinder nights from 6 to 10 p.m., and a War Hammer group is getting started for Saturdays.
Cushing, who lives in Manchester, said they felt Raymond was an ideal location to open the store because there is nothing like it in town. Those interested in comic book stores otherwise had to travel to Manchester, Portsmouth or Rochester for their fix.
Cushing said when he is asked "Why Raymond?" his response is, "Why not Raymond?"
"People are really nice out here and have been really open to our coming in," Cushing said. They opened the store about three weeks ago, and Cushing said they plan to be in town for a long time.
He said their collection is appealing to customers both young and old. Business is also helped by the reinvention of old comic book stories. The release of movies like "The Avengers" helps to increase business for comic book stores, he said.
But it is not always easy to see old favorites fly off the shelves.
"Having no emotional attachment is the hardest thing," Cushing said.