Shoppers will soon be able to find the droids they are looking for in Damariscotta, as a local woman is preparing to open a store for all things “nerdy.”
Susan Chalmers, of Damariscotta, is the owner of Smitten: Collectibles & Nerdy Treasures, an eBay store that specializes in nerdy merchandise, something Chalmers had loved since she was young, particularly when she was watching the original “Doctor Who” series.
“It’s always been a part of who I am,” Chalmers said. “I have always been a very proud nerd.”
After more than 15 years working in retail, Chalmers was on track to become a store manager for Nordstrom’s in Connecticut when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system.
“I couldn’t keep up with the pace,” Chalmers said. “The long hours, all the running around, it was just too much.”
The Chalmers family left Connecticut and moved to a cabin in Bristol. Chalmers said she started looking for ways to contribute financially from home, as complications from the MS left her unable to drive. In 2008, Chalmers was training as a medical transcriptionist when she opened an eBay account under the name kidsbillsandclutter. She began listing and selling items from around the house as a way to make a little extra money.
In the early days, Chalmers’ eBay store sold mostly clothing and shoes she would purchase at yard sales and consignment shops along with a few geeky items, such as action figures from movies and replica props seen on television shows.
Chalmers said the response to those items guided the direction of the store.
“With the nerdy collectibles, there was no way to satisfy the need, the response was just so overwhelming,” Chalmers said. “I never thought it would take off the way it did.”
Chalmers said the name Smitten came from the way fan communities, sometimes called fandoms, refer to their fascination with certain media.
“When a fandom grabs a hold of you, it is more than just saying ‘I like that show,’” Chalmers said. “You become smitten.”
Chalmers applied for a wholesale license for Smitten in 2010. In 2012, the store began to offer costumes in addition to the collectibles and other items already in stock.
Chalmers said one of her favorite parts about the store is picking out the merchandise and writing fun product descriptions.
“There is very little I carry that I do not personally love,” Chalmers said. “I have so much fun looking through the goodies as they are released and ordering.”
Chalmers chooses what the store carries based on a variety of factors. Sales tend to increase around Comic-Con International: San Diego in July and the New York Comic Con in October. Christmas, Halloween, Father’s Day, and back-to-school also tend to be busy times, Chalmers said, as can film and television premieres.
“There are certain older fandoms, like ‘Firefly,’ that are always popular on the site,” Chalmers said. “The only things we really see peak and then fade off are video games and the occasional cartoon show.”
Between the holiday season and the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Chalmers said the store shipped more than 3,000 packages worldwide in the past month.
Chalmers credits her participation in an MS drug trial in Boston for her ability to keep up with the day-to-day demands of the job. Chalmers said the medication has allowed her to “take back” her life from MS.
“It completely changed my life,” Chalmers said. “I would never have had the energy to do this like I am now before that.”
With the popularity of the online store taking off, Chalmers said she felt it was time to open a brick-and-mortar location. The store will be located at 2 Hodgdon St. in Damariscotta, where the Chalmers family now resides. The family plans to renovate a barn on the property into a retail store.
“We never really expected to have an actual physical store, but here we are,” Chalmers said. “I’m not sure what the response will be, but I’m very excited.”
The Damariscotta Planning Board approved Chalmers’ application to renovate the barn on the property into a retail space during its May 4 meeting. Chalmers said she and her family are currently renovating the barn and hope to have the store ready to open in the spring.
With the popularity of Marvel movies, such as “The Avengers” and the “Iron Man” film series, television shows like “The Big Bang Theory,” and reboots of popular franchises like “Star Trek,” Chalmers said she believes there is no better time to be a nerd.
“Nerdiness has seeped deep into almost every area of our culture,” Chalmers said. “It really shows no signs of abating any time soon, and I couldn’t be happier about it!”
For more information or to shop, go to www.facebook.com/smittengottahaveit or http://stores.ebay.com/smitten-nerdy-treasures.