Operation: Fandom and Blackbird Records

Joshua Lehman and Bob Ferguson take a break from setting up the new Mansfield location of Operation: Fandom and Blackbird Records.

MANSFIELD -- From toys to records to movie memorabilia, downtown Mansfield's newest shop is dedicated to anything that creates a sense of nostalgia, wonder and fun.

Operation: Fandom and Blackbird Records opens Thursday at 31 E. Fourth Street.

The fandom wing specializes in vintage toys, current fandom collectibles and sports and retro gaming items, with an inventory spanning more than 50 fandoms.

Blackbird Records carries new vinyl releases, classic vinyl records, music merchandise and memorabilia and even turntables.

Both stores are owned by Joshua Lehman. Lehman opened the first Operation Fandom store in Wooster in 2018, after years of selling collectibles with his father at trade shows and online auctions. He intended for the space to be a headquarters for his online sales, but soon decided that a brick and mortar store was the way to go.

“It was just so much more enjoyable, having it on display there and having customers come through and you know geek out over it,” he said.“So much of what we do is about the memories and the nostalgia.

"It's not really based on just shipping into somebody's house, it's more based on coming in and establishing those relationships.”

One of Lehman’s favorite things about running the shop is seeing multigenerational families connect over the discovery and rediscovery of fandoms.

“The stuff from the 70s, 80s and 90s, with it being remade and on Netflix for this generation to watch, now you've got your 40 and 50 year olds that want to relive it,” he explained. “Now their kids and the younger generation are all excited because they've watched it and they're into it, so it's kind of a golden era right now of old stuff and new stuff all coming together. It's a great time to be a collector.” 

The juxtaposition of old and new is evident throughout the store.

Retro board games sit on a shelf across from Funko Pop bobbleheads. A case of pristine Star Wars action figures from the 1980s stands just a few feet from a basket of cuddly stuffed Baby Yodas. In the back, the records section features everything from classic rock to Marvin Gaye to Billie Eilish.

“That's the thing that we love about our company too is we’re very pop culture oriented, so something might not even be on our radar happens it’s in the news tonight and all of a sudden there's something available next week, we're gonna get it,” he said. “We try to stay very trendy and really on top of things.”

Like its Wooster location, the Mansfield storefront will also host events for the community, like meet-and-greets and costume contests.

“We've done some different cosplay and costume contests and given awards. Next year we're still looking at doing a big toy collectors convention, and then tie in the cosplay contest with it.

“One of the reasons we chose Mansfield to besides the downtown area is the Brickyard area is perfect for events,” Lehman said. 

Bob Ferguson, who will manage the Mansfield store, said the classic architecture and strong business community were other factors in the decision to move to Mansfield.

“You see the high ceilings and the metal on the ceilings and the original wood floors, you can just feel the soul of the building. It's a different vibe than being in a strip mall. And we're all about nostalgia. You know, nostalgia is history. You know, so it just fits,” he said. 

“The businesses in the downtown area tend to band together and support each other, so it's more of a community vibe.”

Operation: Fandom will host its first event in Mansfield on Oct. 15. Ari Lehman, who played Jason Vorhees in the original Friday the 13th film, will be visiting the store for a meet-and-greet, then performing with his band, First Jason, later that evening at the Phoenix Brewing Co.

Customers can find more information on social media about store events, finalized hours, new vinyl releases and the grand opening celebration at the end of October.

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com