Fantasy Realm celebrates 36 in business this February. Here are Randy Sauve’s reflections on the origins of his shop, and a little red box that was with him through it all.
My grandfather, Harry Grondin, was a painter by trade and seeing both his daughter and son-in-law working long hard hours to raise a family in the early 70s, I believe he wanted to get me started as a young entrepreneur so that I could bring an income into the family household as well.
He gathered some leftover pieces of plywood and constructed what would become a shoeshine box with all the materials needed for the job (polish, brush, and cloths) contained inside. The plan was to then pick a busy street corner to set up at and maybe someone would need a shoeshine and toss me a quarter for my hard work. Well, as much as my grandfather’s intentions were quite admirable, it was an idea from a past time and there just weren’t any busy street corners near 1213 Churchill.
Not wanting his construction efforts of this box to go to waste, I removed the lid, painted it red, printed the names of all my favourite superheroes on it with a black marker and turned it into a storage box for my comic book collection. I carried that little red box with me everywhere, the neighbours, the corner store, the park, and the campground.
The little red box served it’s purpose for a few of years until the amount of comics I had collected outgrew it and as I recall it ended up being used as a clothespin container in 1975, but like the names of the superheroes that adorned it, that little red box had left it’s indelible mark on me.
Fast forward a few years to December 1984 and my opportunity to open Fantasy Realm at 227 Pitt Street. As luck would have it the carpet in this location was red, but I also wanted something else in this new business to have the same colour as that little red comic box. I didn’t have much of a budget for renovations, so all I could afford was some brick red oil base paint from KCK Enterprises. We used that to paint the shingled roofing and the back issue comic bins (pictured) so now it felt like I was actually operating the comic shop from within that little red comic box.
When the time came to open a second Fantasy Realm location (Eastcourt Mall – 1991, pictured), I finally had the opportunity to use the same colour of red that was used long ago on that comic box, then we used it again when we renovated 227 Pitt Street (January 1992, pictured), and finally when we opened our third location at the 1000 Islands Mall in Brockville in 1993.
The little red comic box known as Fantasy Realm at 227 Pitt Street has held quite a few comics these past 36 years. Happy Anniversary!