It’s tough to eke out a living running a business in Indian Village Shopping Center, a small strip mall just off South 13th Street.
In the past couple of months, businesses such as Mountain Gypsy Home Imports and Old Skool Video have closed their doors. Night Owl Pub, Indian Village’s bar and music venue, announced it would be turning out the lights one last time on March 29.
So what does sell? Simple: sorcery, Spider-Man and Star Wars.
Nestled together in the middle of the mall sits what Toys From the Past owner Mike Bretta calls “Nerd Grove.” Its occupants are tabletop games purveyor Gauntlet Games, toys and collectibles mart Toys From the Past and comic book art gallery Behind the Glass.
Toys From the Past boasts over 8,000 square feet of toys ranging from early G.I. Joe action figures to 1980s relics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more-recent Star Wars toys.
“It’s kind of a geektopia. We get a lot of regulars around here,” Bretta said. “A lot of the guys coming in here are guys who are trying to buy back their childhood."
Behind the Glass is the most recent addition to Nerd Grove, opening its gallery doors to the public just last year. There, iconic comic book characters practically leap from the bombastic covers that line the shelves in the small alcove in the front corner of Toys From the Past.
Just next door, Gauntlet Games welcomes a steady stream of tabletop gamers. Advertising itself as half-retail, half-gaming, the store holds weekly sessions where participants meet up and roll dice in their favorite role-playing games.
Because of the similar niche interests Nerd Grove caters to, many regulars make it a point to visit more than one store.
“We see a lot of the same kinds of guys,” Bretta said. “In some ways, we drive business for each other.”
Beyond Nerd Grove, the strip mall has a laundromat, antique shops and Ray’s Tattoo, Lincoln’s oldest tattoo parlor.
Beyond the strip mall, the neighborhood is home to roofing contractors Neeman & Sons Inc. and newcomer Pinnacle Roofing & Siding.
In 2016, Blue Blood brought a bar, restaurant and taproom to the site of Robber’s Cave.
Bretta previously owned Shivers, an ice cream shop, with his wife, but has since closed the business. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for shops in the mall. The Family Dollar location at Indian Village was once a neighborhood grocery store.
"Thirteenth is a pretty busy street, but if you take this and flip it over to Highway 2, we'd have 10 times the business," Bretta said. "We still see people come up to the old site of Shivers and seem sad to see it go. It’s tough, but I never want to put Indian Village down. It's a good mall, but it's definitely a destination mall.”
Toys From the Past recently celebrated its sixth anniversary in Indian Village, and Bretta said the future looks bright.
“We sell nostalgia, and there’s a lot of movies and TV shows coming out people watch that make them want to come here and buy stuff,” he said. “Business tends to come and go here, but we’re fortunate.”