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Funko will soon be expanding to downtown Everett to move its headquarters and offer a tourist destination for the toymaker's global fanbase.
Brian Mariotti bought the local company 12 years ago when it was primarily a bobblehead company. He has since evolved it into a bonafide pop culture craze thanks to the Comicon crowd and changes in viewing habits.
"Each and every year since we've owned it, its grown," says Mariotti. "We've never had a year where we slipped backward, but the last five years the growth has been exponential. A lot of that is because pop culture, as a whole, has changed."
The favorite items come from its POP line, which makes even the goriest creatures look cute. The company has gained licensing rights to some of the most stable franchises like Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics, NFL, Barbie and Disney, widening its appeal to kids and women. Several years ago, 95 percent of Funko's customers were men. Today, 55 percent of women make up the company's customer base.
"That design acumen really changed who was buying our products," says Mariotti. "And that also had a real important differentiation with us in the marketplace compared to other collectible companies, and then retailers started to want to be a part of that."
Mariotti believes binge watching has helped grow the company's fan base as well. Right now, POP characters from the Netflix show Stranger Things are extremely popular.
In 2005, the company employed three people. Today more than 350 people work there, from world-class artists to IT specialists and marketing gurus. The company's current warehouse is running out of space, so this move allows it to have some breathing room.
The new flagship store will include 17,000 square feet of retail space, all of which will have some tourism component. Imagine walking through a hall of Harry Potter collectibles with a giant Funko Pop figurine that looks great on Instagram. Perhaps you'll find yourself in a scene of a Marvel movie. More giant Funko figurines are planned for the outside of the store and even possibly on top of the downtown sky bridge.
"Pop culture resonates with everybody right now," says Mariotti. "I think people are going to check it out for the first time and once they get inside, they're going to see that it's a pretty cool place. And it's going to be ever-changing because pop culture is ever-changing, so the product within the store will be ever-changing as well."
Right now the plan is to open the flagship store August 18th. The store expects fans will camp out to get some of the exclusives that will be offered that day. The company also expects to hire about 30 people.