A young boy, about 8 years old, led his family of four through the door of Sucher & Sons.
Two steps into the store, he came to an abrupt halt, causing the rest of the family to pile up behind him in the doorway.
“Whoa,” was all the boy could say as his wide-eyed gaze panned from left to right.
“I told you that you would like it,” the mom said.
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The boy’s star-struck reaction is typical of anyone who walks into the Sucher & Sons Star Wars Shop for the first time.
After taking in his first view, the young boy bolted from the rest of his family, exploring display cases, boxes, dioramas, baskets and shelves crammed with “Star Wars” toys, costumes, magazines, movie posters, photographs and memorabilia. Small TVs throughout the store constantly play the movies, cartoons, interviews and other shows related to the “Star Wars” phenomenon.
For any “Star Wars” fan, this small store in a corner of the galaxy called Aberdeen is a must-see.
For many customers, the store on the east edge of the downtown is part of any trip to the Ocean Shores area. For others, it is part of a pilgrimage. Stick pins in maps show they come from small Montana towns, tropical locales in Florida, and far-flung locales including Australia, Russia and Chile. Sucher estimates more than 40,000 people have come through the door in 18 years.
It’s is easy to spot the store. Just after crossing the Wishkah River bridge on U.S. Highway 101, look for the two lightsabers that also function as light poles. Often out front are mannequins of Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. A large mural of “Star Wars” characters adorns the wall facing the parking lot.
It’s like the excitement of the first movie is starting all over again.
Don Sucher, owner of Sucher & Sons Star Wars Shop in Aberdeen
It is what’s inside, however, that is the main attraction.
That would be thousands of “Star Wars” items, and the 72-year-old Sucher.
The Vietnam veteran opened the store in 1997. Collecting “Star Wars” items was a hobby he shared with his sons, Koby, then 12, and Nick, then 8. When they ran out of room at their home, they opened in their first location. The “hole in the wall” was supposed to be a temporary business, one it turns out that lasted nine years. Then they moved to their current location. While the sons have gone on to their own careers, Sucher still mans the store seven days a week.
Much of what is on the shelves these days comes from people who stop by to sell items, and from yard and estate sales. A few items he buys off the Internet, and there are a few new items bought from manufacturers.
“Every day two or three people stop by to sell me something. I never know who is coming in,” Sucher said. “Sometimes it’s a boxful, sometimes it’s a trunkful. If it’s good stuff, it’s hard to resist.”
When asked how big his inventory is, Sucher referred to the sign on the storefront.
“My sign out front says over 100,000 items, from $1 up.”
This is a store where kids can give a toy a whirl. It’s a toy store, he said, not a museum. Toys are meant to be played with. Just don’t try running in the store. It is packed floor to ceiling with items, with little room to maneuver an X-Wing fighter in an imaginary battle.
In watching Sucher, his favorite customers are children. He quickly strikes up a conversation, leading a youngster through the cramped aisles. Sucher smiles and laughs as he helps a young shopper.
Finally, when the child discovers that hidden gem, perhaps a Micro Machines Millennium Falcon or a Lego version of Luke’s Landspeeder, Sucher often offers a discount to the young buyer.
If he detects a child isn’t a “Star Wars” fan, he tries to find some item that will have the child leaving happy.
“The kids are the best part of this. I love to see the look on their faces when they come in, and the smiles when they find something cool, something they really want,” he said.
“Even though I’m an old man starting to look like Yoda, I enjoy seeing the kids having a good time. They feel right at home here, and that’s what we want.”
The store appeals to the serious collector looking to complete a collection and to the small child looking for a new toy. There are bins filled with used figurines missing an accessory or two. There are toys from the late 1970s still in their original packaging. Some items are worth thousands of dollars, others go for a couple of bucks. The store once had a life-size replica of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Sucher sold it for $2,700 to a collector.
40,000 The approximate number of people who have come through the store since it opened in 1997.
It’s not all about “Star Wars.”
In one corner of the store is the Kurt Cobain Memorabilia and Info Center, Sucher’s homage to one of Aberdeen’s best-known sons and the late lead singer for the band Nirvana. One story is that Cobain worked for Sucher, for one day, when he worked as a furniture salesman. A small back room is full of “Star Trek” items. He recently added a “Ghostbusters” section.
Still, there is no doubt where Sucher’s allegiance lies – with George Lucas’ space opera ready to unveil its first installment in the decade since “Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith” hit the big screen.
The walls in the store and the photos on their Facebook page are filled with photos of fans of all ages. Some show fans proudly displaying their tattoos of “Star Wars” symbols, favorite characters and sayings. Others show people in costume. In other images, visitors are smiling as they pose with Sucher.
If you need further evidence, ask to check out the Princess Leia tattoo on Sucher’s right arm. Underneath it is a tattooed signature of actress Carrie Fisher. She signed Sucher’s arm when the two met at a “Star Wars” 30th anniversary party in Los Angeles. He had a tattoo artist make it permanent.
While he has enjoyed his brushes with “Star Wars” fame, Sucher said it’s the everyday people who walk through the door to his shop that most excite him.
When the word started leaking that Episode VII would be made, interest in the store picked up.
“It helped me immensely for the last two years,” Sucher said of the business sparked by Friday’s official release of “Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” “But the last two months has tapered off. I think that’s because every store out there is overwhelmed with stuff.
“It has been two good years, and it will keep us in business another 15 years,” he said of the new movie. “Just when I thought I was done, they pulled me right back in.”
Sucher said it’s hard to contain the anticipation, and that he will be at the theater in Aberdeen opening day.
“It’s like the excitement of the first movie is starting all over again.”
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
Sucher & Sons Star Wars Shop
Where: 413 E. Wishkah St., Aberdeen.
Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
Information: 360-970-7080, sucherandsonsstarwarsshop.com.
Star Wars time capsule
Here is some of what was happening in the South Sound on May 25, 1977, when “Star Wars: Episode IV-A New Hope” was released:
▪ The Budweiser Clydesdale team of horses performed at the Tacoma Mall.
▪ The Daily Olympian published a “silent prayer” for the Legislature in hopes of speeding the adjournment of the 135-day session.
▪ The Coalition Against Oil Pollution was threatening to put an initiative on the ballot that would ban transshipment of oil through the state unless the Legislature forced all refineries to connect to a single terminal in the Port Angeles area.