November 25, 2020 Interview – Terry Taylor Talks 1313 Mockingbird Lane
If it’s one thing Horror lovers crave (aside from more horror) its collectibles inspired by the things they love. Longtime Rock Bassist Terry Taylor and his wife Liz own 1313 Mockingbird Lane, a toy and collectibles shop in Lawrence, Kansas. The store is filled to the brim with knick-knacks inspired by their love for Horror, Metal and ’80s vintage toys. In their shop you will find everything from G.I. Joe, DC and Marvel, Hello Kitty, and of course – every Horror icon you can think of. The Taylor’s had to completely revamp their lives after Terry lost his mother to lung cancer. They left the music world to become a registered nurse and respiratory therapist, respectively, before opening their vintage toy store inspired by The Munsters.
Unfortunately, in March, COVID forced them to return to their hospital jobs in order to keep their store afloat. Now, 1313 Mockingbird Lane is getting the Hollywood treatment as the second store to be featured on the new series A Toy Store Near You, now available on Amazon Prime. Fully shot remotely on iPhones, the series is produced by docu-show Creator Brian Volk Weiss of the Nacelle Company. The show went from greenlight to airing in just 60 days. The show allows you to take a deep dive into how this beloved small business survives and how important these businesses are to their communities and to the people that love and own them. Recently, Terry sat down to talk about the process and how their pop culture phenomena came to life.
Cryptic Rock – How does one go from music, to working hospital jobs, to opening a vintage horror-themed toy store?
Terry Taylor – (Laughs) I get asked that all the time. I was a touring musician and music promoter from the age of 15 to 40. Believe it or not you can get burned out of even something as cool as that. I really wanted to be home more and I just needed a change.
Liz had been in the medical field for a while and she thought I had the demeanor for patient care. I had always been interested in what she was doing, so I did some research on my own to see what part of the medical field would suit me. My mom had been battling lung cancer and COPD for years and it seemed like going into Respiratory Therapy was a good match for me on many levels.
Once I dove head first into the medical field I found myself having a hard time dealing with the battles I couldn’t win. When you help people so intimately in their weakest time, you become very invested. I really brought this home every night and found myself obsessing about the people I couldn’t help.
Through collecting while touring and just my obsessive nature I had amassed a very large toy collection which consisted of lots of duplicates.
Liz and I had found out we couldn’t have kids naturally and needed to raise 75k for IVF therapy so I started doing toy conventions to help raise money for our baby fund. I had been doing that for quite a few years before I went into the medical field. After 3 miscarriages and a lot of heartache, we decided that maybe having kids wasn’t in the cards for us. This decision not to proceed trying to have kids coincided with me thinking about doing something different than being a Respiratory Therapist. Liz knew I liked doing the conventions and suggested that we try and open a retail spot and have me do that full time and just do the RT gig part time.
We were walking the dogs downtown and saw this new for rent sign in this little space and we called the landlord, looked at the spot and signed the lease that day!
I had always said from a young age that if I ever opened a store, whether it be music, toy, movie, etc. that it would be named after The Munsters (my favorite show) and low and behold, 1313 Mockingbird Lane was born!
Cryptic Rock – How inspiring! Through all of that adversity, you were still able to find your calling. Opening up a store inspired by The Munsters would seem like a fever dream to anyone on the outside looking in, how important of a role did that play in the store’s creation? What elements from The Munsters really stuck with you?
Terry Taylor – The Munsters were so far ahead of their time. As a young punk rocker that was very self-aware of sexism, racism and homophobia at a very young age, discovering a show like The Munsters was huge for me. If you look at the show at its core, it’s about acceptance of others that are different and how those of us that are different deal with intolerance from others.
We didn’t know if anyone would care about a crazy little shop that was void of definition. We wanted to sell toys, horror merch, taxidermy, a little bit of cosplay, clothes and whatever we wanted to sell! We wanted this to be a place that everyone could feel at home and accepted. Whether you were an outcast like Herman Munster or a mainstream person like Marilyn Munster, we wanted to create a space that all were welcome!
Cryptic Rock – Love that notion! Your store features a wide variety of Horror and pop culture collectibles and accessories from figurines, clothing, and more. What items are your personal favorites to receive for the store?
Terry Taylor – We literally sell anything that we want to sell. We try not to define the store as one thing, that way we are always keeping it fresh and keeping people on their toes!
Godzilla is my favorite thing in the world, so we always have lots of the King of the Monsters on hand! Also my wife does amazing royalty themed taxidermy and I love featuring her pieces in store. They get a lot of attention!
Cryptic Rock – Speaking of your wife’s taxidermy, do you carry a lot of oddities like that in your shop?
Terry Taylor – My wife does very unique animal taxidermy and insect pieces, so we feature a lot of her art in store for sale. Her art has garnered a lot of attention and really built a cult following with our customers.
Cryptic Rock – That is not surprising, her work is incredible! Back in March, at the height of the pandemic lockdown, small businesses took a huge hit. What was that transition like for you both?
Terry Taylor – We didn’t know what the heck we were going to do. Honestly, we never really said it out loud but the vibe around the house/shop was an unspoken thought that the shop probably was not going to survive.
I love love love customer interaction. I love meeting people, I love talking to people, I love people. So, we never worried about selling items online. I wanted people to come to the shop. If I wanted to be eBay, I wouldn’t have opened up a brick and mortar store.
Liz suggested that we try and do some Facebook online live sales to generate income during the mandatory pandemic closure of a couple months.
I agreed to do it only with the stipulation that it had to be run as if we were at our house goofing off and that’s exactly what we did. We stumbled through our first live sale with karate jump kicks, confetti, Liz and I giving each other a hard time on and off camera, props and loads and loads of fun! It was amazing. We felt like we found this second life and a way to still bond with our customers and still generate revenue! It was a game changer.
Around this time, I got a phone call at the store from a guy named Rich who said he was a producer of a little show called The Toys That Made Us. He actually asked me if I had heard of the show… I was like “yeahhhhhhhh I only watch it daily!”
Rich explained to me this would be a show about independent toy stores all over the world and what they are doing to survive during the pandemic. He stressed this was hopefully a way to bring awareness and revenue to these stores.
Since it was a pandemic the filming would be put onto our shoulders to handle. We had a loose outline they gave us as to what they needed and literally told us to go to town. We started filming the next day. We would film 3-6 “scenes” a night and Dropbox them to the A Toy Store Near You guys.
Then Rich and Brian Volk Weiss would give us input on things they liked and things that needed to be expanded or explained in a different way. Then we would reshoot and wait further instructions. Rich and Brian were so amazing through the whole process. They were always available to talk, answer questions and give us great guidance.
I’m not gonna lie the couple months of filming was pretty grueling as I had returned to working full time at the hospital to help pay the bills at the store while we were closed. So, I was working a full 40-50 hour hospital work week dealing with strictly Covid patients, plus handling mail outs, incoming orders and general shop duties during the closure, then spending every night filming. Liz was in a pretty similar situation as well since she is a full-time nurse and also an important part of the behind the scenes work on the shop.
Cryptic Rock – So it seems like those livestream sales ended up being a blessing in disguise! How has the show affected your lives since it aired?
Terry Taylor – A Toy Store Near You was such an amazing thing to be involved in. It opened a lot of doors (thanks to the lovely internet) for us. Awareness of the shop doubled almost immediately and once the later international episodes started showing, we started to get a ton of messages from across the world.
Not to mention we’ve become pretty good friends with the other stores in the series. Getting to know the other store owners has been great. It’s easy to feel like you are on a ship alone during these crazy Mad Max times we currently live in and being able to communicate with the other stores who have essentially the same concerns has actually been pretty comforting. We can’t say thank you enough to everyone involved with the show!
Cryptic Rock – That Mad Max comparison is very spot on. What is the biggest takeaway you want for viewers once they watch the episode?
Terry Taylor – I can’t stress this enough, wear your masks and take precautions. Liz and I both have been working with primarily Covid patients since Mar and it’s not a joke, it’s not made up, it’s real and can happen to you. Truly if I could wear a go pro camera for one 12-hour shift and show everyone how bad it really is, I think people’s views would change. We just want more than anything for people to be safe and be well.
Also, as a great man said, “Keep calm, buy toys.”
Cryptic Rock – Hopefully normality will return soon, and yes, buying toys does bring happiness. So, what is next for you guys?
Terry Taylor – Funny you should ask!
We just moved into a bigger space on Halloween weekend! This choice was not based on financial gain, as we are making far less than we were pre-pandemic but based on safety necessity for our customers. If you’ve seen our episode of A Toy Store Near You, you could probably tell the original shop was tiny. Like 280 square feet small. We loved it so much but when there’s a pandemic and people need to social distance, a 280 square feet retail spot is not where you should be.
Liz and I had been trying to make a game plan as to how we were going to handle the holiday rush at the store and keep people safe. Call it fate, luck, whatever, one of our neighbors 3 doors down decided to move. Though moving into a bigger spot with more expenses wasn’t the most common business sense thing to do, we knew in our hearts it was the right thing to do.
So, the new shop is 580 square feet. Not too big but not too small. We literally kept the vibe the exact same in the new store down to the same paint color and chandeliers. We opened Halloween weekend and it went great! People dressed up, came out, wore their masks and social distanced while buying lots of toys! We couldn’t have asked for a better reopening weekend.
I literally say this daily, the people that come to our shop are some of the most amazing people in the world. We feel pretty lucky.
Cryptic Rock – That sounds like a blast! The perfect opening weekend! Okay, last question. What are some of your favorite Horror films?
Terry Taylor – Oh boy you went there!
Obviously as a Horror fan, I’m a slave to all the classics, The Evil Dead (1981), The Exorcist (1973), Aliens (1986), Dead Alive (1992), Basket Case (1982), Night of the Living Dead (1968). Etc. I mean those movies defined generations of Horror masterpieces to come!
Some of my personal, not as well-known Horror favorite flicks are Ginger Snaps (2000), Session 9 (2001), May (2002), The Void (2016) and I could list like 2,000 others. Horror has and always will be my life blood.
Ginger Snaps was such an awesome take on the werewolf genre. I loved the duality of the sisters and also using the analogy of road to womanhood as a comparison to the curse of becoming a lycanthrope. My mind was blown when I saw it for the first time. I love the whole trilogy.
Session 9 hit all the creepy building spots for me. It was semi based on a real story, it was filmed in an historic asylum that I had already been obsessed with, and the atmosphere as a whole made my skin crawl. I had a bad habit of dragging my band mates over the years to haunted places. In the early 2000s, before the Danvers Asylum was turned into apartments, I forced my band dudes to sneak onto the grounds of the Asylum at about 3am after we played Boston. Long story super short, ended with us being escorted out of the city by 4 police cars and being told we may never return to the city of Danvers.
Last movie I’ll expand on is May. As a young awkward social outcast that never felt like he fit in, this movie called to me. Even as a 47-year-old adult now I still feel like that 16-year-old Midwestern skateboarder that used to get picked on by jocks after school.
May is the story of trying to fit in a world that you don’t really feel a part of, navigating your sexuality and trying to make sense of this crazy thing called dating and how all this can in the end drive you mad. I don’t want to give anything away but if you were ever an outcast trying to find love but just couldn’t seem to find that someone that was alright with your shortcomings, this is a movie for you. I always day dreamed that if Liz and I were ever able to have a kid, I wanted it to be a girl and be just like May (just without the homicidal tendencies).