NEWARK — At first glance, Clockwork Comics & Games appears to be a place appealing only to children or young adults.
In this case, looks are deceiving.
“We get everybody in here,” said Rick VanDongen, who owns the South Main Street business with his wife, Tina. “We get little kids looking for Pokémon cards or video games to teenagers playing Magic and reading comics ... all the way to ‘kids’ my age that kind of never grew up and are now 40.”
Indeed, Clockwork Comics & Games is a place where those middle-age “kids” relive their childhoods. The store has a vast collection of comic books, cards, tabletop and video games; movies on DVD and VHS, CDs, records; and much more.
“It’s pretty much like a huge, pop-culture mix of stuff,” Rick said.
He and his wife started the business about two years ago. They patterned it after a shop Rick used to frequent, Yesterday & Today, while he was growing up in Newark in the 1980s. That store was at the same location Clockwork is today.
“They sold records and comic books, and that’s really where I started to collect,” he said. “I bought my Iron Maiden records up front, then went in the back and would buy my ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ comics.”
The VanDongens’ business is a haven for gamers too. Thursdays are usually reserved for casual gaming, with people coming in to play Warhammer or tabletop games, while Friday nights are set aside for a popular trading-card game, Magic: The Gathering.
“Even though the hours are 10 to 10 on Friday, sometimes I’m here until 1 in the morning,” Rick said. “We get a good crowd.”
For those not into fantasy games, he said Clockwork has everything from Monopoly and your basic family games to Axis & Allies, a World War II strategy board game.
“Pretty much anytime someone wants to come in and play anything, we have a game table in the back,” he said. “There’s just a ton of games back there.”
“People can just come in and play the games for free and spend some quality time,” Tina added.
While customers might think Rick has much of his personal collection at the store, that’s not the case. A longtime collector, he has quite a stash at his home in Newark.
“I left a lot of my collection at the house, but a lot of it I brought here to start with and it kind of ballooned from there,” he said. “The stuff I really wasn’t attached to came here.
“I have a man cave at home. There’s just a lot of stuff I just couldn’t bring here because I don’t want to give it up.”
“He definitely has his own collection,” Tina added. “It’s like his pet.”
While admitting business could be better, the VanDongens said it’s been good. Rick often sees people his own age coming in to find items from the past.
“There’s a lot of 40-year-old guys that are coming in and looking for their vintage toys, like their G.I. Joes and stuff they gave up when they were a kid,” he said. “Occasionally, I have 80-plus-year-old guys coming in thinking that we change watch batteries because of the name of the shop is Clockwork!”
Tina said her husband’s longtime love of comics books dates to him having designed some of his own when he was younger.
“He used to draw up his own and go to shows all the time ... and he would try to sell his prints and comic books that he had designed, colored and did all the artwork for,” he said. “He truly is an artist ... and it’s been his desire ever since he was young to have a place like this. I think for a business just starting out we’ve done pretty well.”