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'A Toy Store Near You' explores the power of vintange playthings, indie stores and collectible retailers.

COURTESY PHOTO: MICHAEL CORTES - Portland toy store owner Billy Galaxy helped develop the docuseries 'A Toy Store Near You,' which debuts on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Vimeo on Friday, May 29 — starting with an episode of his Billy Galaxy Vintage Toys.

He's not only a seller of collectibles, he's a collector.

But, it took Billy Galaxy reaching adulthood to avidly collect toys.

"I didn't really collect toys as a kid, as much as I played with them," said Billy Galaxy, owner of a toy store of the same name on West Burnside Street, which will be featured on a new docuseries by The Nacelle Company.

"I collected rocks, seashells and stamps. I didn't collect toys until I was an adult. This stuff is neat, and it brings me back to a good place, and it looks good sitting on a shelf. I have a pretty decent collection myself; my personal favorites are a lot of Japanese toys, as I'm particularly fond of the (toys) that I have to travel to get. Whatever strikes my fancy. I'm happy to work that into my career."

A lifelong Portlander, Galaxy has been thrust into a featured role behind and in front of the cell phone cameras with the new docuseries "A Toy Store Near You." He and his store, Billy Galaxy Vintage Toys at 912 W. Burnside St., served as the pilot subject for The Nacelle Company series and CEO Brian Volk-Weiss. The series had been designed to create exposure for toy stores around the country — and some in other countries — that might be struggling during the currrent health and economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Well, one thing led to another, and Galaxy became an executive producer of the series that eventually could feature 50 toy stores and stretch into more seasons beyond the one starting this week. Oh, and Galaxy the man and his store will be the featured toy store in the first episode of the series, which launches Friday, May 29, on Amazon Prime Video and YouTube and Vimeo subscription channels.

It has been, as they say, a labor of love for Galaxy. "A Toy Store Near You" came directly from the effects of the pandemic on toy stores, but it really tells the story of struggling small businesses in general.

"When it started out, it was going to be more about toys and drive awareness and attention and money toward about an as nonessential service as you can get — a toy store," he said. "We're all hit hard like everybody else.

COURTESY PHOTO: MICHAEL CORTES - Billy Galaxy holds up a 1978 'Star Wars' health awareness poster.

"It goes beyond just participating in my own episode. It evolved into produced, quality content ... and from me talking about toys to interviews with employees and customers. And, it's become more about not only toy stores, but also anybody who owns a small business or knows somebody who owns a small business. (It applies) to anything — a flower shop or car mechanic, anybody who works for themselves."

It started with Volk-Weiss, who Galaxy said moved production equipment and more to employees' homes, because he anticipated a work shutdown. Volk-Weiss called Galaxy with the toy store TV show idea, and Galaxy agreed to help out.

Galaxy filmed segments for the pilot program, and then started making contacts with toy store owners around the nation, and even in such countries as the Netherlands and Japan. Toy store owners produced audio and video with cell phones, for the most part. It really turned into quite a DIY project.

"I tugged on their leash and guided them through the process," Galaxy said.

Galaxy has seen many rough cuts of episodes of "Toy Store Near You."

"There are a lot of engaging people and subjects," he said. "It's going to appeal to a much broader audience than just collectors. I thought they were crazy when they said they wanted to do 50 stores. It's a massive amount of work. It's all self-shot, with everybody theoretically under quarantine, and it's shop owners shooting stuff on cell phones. They took footage and it looks like a real TV show, with voiceovers, stock footage and B roll. They know what they're doing. They made a real product out of it."

The Nacelle Company has been involved in many things related to pop culture, including developing, producing and distributing feature and documentary films, TV shows and comedy specials, and the latest series takes off from the recent Netflix docuseries "The Toys That Made Us" and "The Movies That Made Us."

"It should be great publicity," Galaxy said. "I worked with the folks at Nacelle on the 'Toys That Made Us.' We're all friends. They needed a friend to really go through the guinea pig stages of how they're going to work it out."

He added: "It was very spur of the moment, and it snowballed into something much bigger."

The Billy Galaxy Vintage Toys store has withstood the health and economic crisis, even with maintaining prime leased property in the Pearl District since 1996. Galaxy said he has been fortunate to have considerate property owners. In vintage toys, we're talking about collectible toys from the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s, including G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Transformers and Godzilla. Galaxy also features a lot of Japanese toys and "we sell tons of unusual stuff, and video games, old comic books, all that kind of stuff."

There are two employees besides Galaxy. Half of the store's business had been retail and half online, and now, of course, it's all online or by private appointment.

"The TV show has been a lot more time and energy than anybody anticipated," Galaxy said. "There is a lot more shooting than we expected, and we continue to help with getting other stores wrangled in."

Galaxy hopes the docuseries excites people about collectible toys.

"We like educating people about vintage toys. It's part of our job," he said. "Hopefully a lot of people see it when it comes out. It's fascinating that (Nacelle) essentially took the time to do this. They have a genuine desire to help. The owner of the company is a toy collector, and they're genuinely concerned (toy) places won't be able to make it without some help."

COURTESY PHOTO: MICHAEL CORTES - Billy Galaxy Vintage Toys, 912 W. Burnside St., has survived the current economic crisis.


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