When most people hear about San Diego Comic-Con, their thoughts immediately go to the halcyon days of buying Superman and Spider-Man’s latest adventures for a quarter at the corner store. And while there’s still a piece of that history alive on the floor of the San Diego Convention Center, Comic-Con has expanded far past that.
From Hollywood features to the latest games and gadgets to, yes, woodworking, there’s a little bit of something for everyone at this yearly event. It has become an all encompassing event for hobbyists of all interests and backgrounds, and the company Geek Chic is taking the forefront at bringing quality woodworking to the geek audience.
Geek Chic started out making gaming tables and storage devices to fill what they felt was a hole in the furniture industry. There weren’t enough products designed for the growing market that plays tabletop and video games, so they created tables and cabinets perfect for storing and playing these games.
But they quickly wound up at something of an impasse. While they’d found a need and a market and were creating quality wood products, getting in front of their customers was proving to be a problem.
The company started attending consumer and product shows a few years ago, but that setup didn’t offer the space to really showcase the tables and cases or the ability for customers to take them home right from the show floors. So company founder and chief “instigator” Robert Gifford decided to add to their repertoire.
They turned once again to their audience for inspiration, and began creating a line of wood display weapons. Everything from swords to axes to wands, which make great show pieces both on the convention floor and in homes.
Gifford recalls a story in which a customer excitedly purchased two weapons to “take home to his wife to show her the difference between cherry and walnut.” Gifford offered to give him some wood samples instead, but the customer insisted that the swords showed the intricacies of the wood better.
With the success of their armory, Geek Chic had started to gain momentum for their business. Then inspiration struck again, this time quite by accident. The company’s woodworkers, Gifford says, are often toying around with making different shapes out of the scrap wood in the band saw. As a joke, one employee put a vaguely mustache-shaped piece over his upper lip.
Soon, all the guys in the shop were trying their hand at the project, and the “Mustache Monocle” was born. It didn’t take much prompting, Gifford said, to “make a batch and bring it to a convention.”
So they took them to this year’s Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle and they’ve sold well ever since. They’ve increased the volume of mustache monocles currently in production and available at conventions across the country in sets of three, and they hope to add them to their website in the future as well.
While there’s currently no plans to take their products to retail, Geek Chic is a great example of a business which has tackled an evolving marketplace with fresh ideas and an evolving product model turning everything from large furniture to scraps into profit. Comic-Con may seem like an unlikely place to find up and coming woodworkers and innovative products, but for Robert Gifford and company, it seems to be a perfect fit.