Throwback Gamez is located at 509 Vista Way in Oceanside, Calif. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall store, so keep your eyes peeled when looking for it.
Its owner, Manny Mimoso, wanted to leave the corporate scene and job behind him and follow what he had a passion for: video games. He always loved video games and hated how big franchises did business, and felt he could do it better.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own business, I love video games, and I hate how GameStop does business,” said Mimoso at his store. “So it started like six years ago in Baltimore, I fixed my Nintendo and realized I liked fixing stuff so I started selling stuff out of my garage and garage sales,” Mimoso said. “Then I moved to California and things didn’t go very well for me in the beginning and I really enjoyed taking shit that was dead and bringing it to life.”
Mimoso grew up in Newark, NJ and ended up moving to Baltimore. “My friends didn’t think I should open up the store, they said I was crazy,” he said. “One of my buddies said that it’s the worst idea because everything is going digital. It’s all about the atmosphere, you treat me right, I’ll sit here and talk to you for hours. If you act like a douche, I’ll treat you like a douche. I don’t believe that the customer is always right, I really don’t. I protect my business and I protect my coworkers.”
Mimoso was very into the idea of starting and owning his business and the one person that inspired him to do so was his grandfather.
“My grandfather inspired me, he owned seven cafes and restaurants in Portugal at one point,” he said.
With a total of five employees, Mimoso doesn’t like to say they work for him.
“People don’t work for me, they work with me,” he said.
He creates a very welcoming and fun work environment for those that work there.
“It’s been pretty fun, I’ve had some pretty bad jobs and this is honestly a breath of fresh air. I mean I’m working at a game store, I can’t ask for anything else,” said Throwback Gamez employee Josh Godinez.
Mimoso attributes the success of his store to the lack of retro video game stores in the coastal cities. He also thinks his pricing and the environment he created helped the success of the business.
“The lack of retro video game stores in the area, and our pricing for both trade-ins and sale, which are very fair,” said Mimoso. “I don’t need to make $100 on every transaction, I really don’t. Some things I grossly overpay for them because I want them in my store. I got Soul Silver two days ago and I paid $150 for it, then sold it for $79.99, but it gets asses in here. The guy who bought it brought a friend, who ended up buying a Funko Pop.”
Sala Lologo, Throwback Gamez customer, over Instagram said he loves the store and how it allows him to reminisce on childhood memories. “I found out about Throwback through you [Max] actually. Seeing it on your story so I’d figure I’d give it a look around,” he said.
Lologo likes how welcoming Mimoso is and how it’s a place you can shop at, but also hang out and talk at. “The vibe at Throwback is amazing, Manny is super chill and creates a vibe that is super unmatched for real,” he said. “I’d totally recommend Throwback to anyone local or afar!”
The location of which Throwback Gamez is interesting because the store that occupied it before was also a video game store.
“This location chose me. When I was looking around at places, as soon as people heard I was opening up a video game store, I got the old ‘hey, we’ll get back to you at the end of the day.’ We probably got 40 to 50 places that never called me back,” said Mimoso. “This was the only place that called me back. So I’m still waiting for some people to call me back, but I’m going to stop waiting.”
When Throwback Gamez first opened, Mimoso paid thousands in advertising, but the dollar didn’t stretch as far as it did when people talked about it.
“My favorite words are ‘I love this place’ and ‘I’m going to tell my friends about it,’ you know, that’s the best form of advertising,” he said. “If you would have told me a year ago that by this time I’d have over 2,300 followers on Instagram I would have told you, you were nuts.”
The store gets a lot of its inventory through trade-ins and will get some items off of sellers on Instagram.
“I usually wait until the end and go through the leftovers so everyone else can get a fair shot and pick what they want,” Manny said, adding that he also has a distributor that he usually gets newer games in bulk from.
COVID-19 struck at what many would think to be an inconvenient time, but in the end it seemed to be partly beneficial for Mimoso and Throwback Gamez.
“I signed the lease on March 10, 2020 and on March 11, 2020 [when Gov. Gavin] Newsom decided to shut us down,” he said. “I had a lot of repairs and fixes in here that needed to be done, so I thought, okay we’ll have two weeks to a month to get those under control. Then look at where we are a year later.”
Due to the state shutdown, Mimoso had to find ways to grow his business and get some sales.
“For the first couple weeks we offered delivery, but it’s kind of hard to do that when you’re the only person here. So I was closing and making the delivery, and yeah that wasn’t very fun,” Mimoso said. The delivery idea didn’t do as well as he thought it would, and it turned out customers didn’t mind doing curbside pick-ups instead.
Mimoso’s best selling items at the store are anything Pokémon.
“If I had only Pokémon items in this store, I wouldn’t have to sell anything else,” he said. “I want to be a nationally recognized brand, that’s what the end goal is.”
Mimoso wants to build out in California and move east. He would love to have a location back home in Baltimore.
“I’m not really good about talking about myself, like I’m really not. You know humility goes a long way, so how about you think about something to say about my store,” he said. If there was one thing to say about Throwback Gamez, it would be it’s a great store, with great prices and even better people.