Geeky Mamas is a homegrown business that blossomed in the heart of a woman with her family in mind. In an effort to provide her mother with a stable income and to create a safe and welcoming space for the female geek, Maria Estrada began designing, while her mother began the sewing, of the geek chic Ewok-inspired over-the-shoulder bag.
They tested out the accessory at a swap meet, then quickly sold out and the rest is history.
Joel Estrada, a lawyer, entrepreneur, savvy businessman and husband to Maria, breathed financial life into Geeky Mamas, an idea born in 2010 that has since become a local success. With four stores, one in Cerritos, Anaheim, Buena Park and now Long Beach, Joel and Andrea Jaco, District Manager for Geeky Mamas, met with me to explain how they got started, where they're headed and why Long Beach, and Long Beach Comic Con, are the perfect places to cater toward lovers of the comic world, including their family and friends.
"The other motivation that gave life to the whole concept of Geeky Mamas was that my wife and I would travel and go to all these gatherings and during those times women were completely ignored at these conventions, women were an afterthought, they were not someone you thought about, so the whole concept of bringing something for girls to purchase was, a pink shirt," Joel said. "That was the extent of it.
"In 2010 when we started production and everything, we went to a Star Wars convention in Florida, and I went by myself because we had a booth there and I said, ‘I’m going to get my wife a present,’ and I walked the entire convention, the entire convention. I could not find one thing my wife would have liked. My wife by nature is not a geek, I’m the geek. But she started becoming a geek through me, and she always wanted a connection with me. So the whole concept of Geeky Mamas was to create a retail space where the woman is at the forefront. We’re a geeky store with women in mind."
Joel explained that Geeky Mamas is not just for geeky mamas, but a store with a brand that wants to promote an above and beyond care for the customer, whether they're a "real" geek or not.
"Okay, if you’re a geek, and you wanna buy a Pacific Rim figure just as much as the next guy, where can you go?" Joel said. "You can come here. Let’s say you’re not really a geek but you have a boyfriend, a husband, a spouse, a partner, that is a geek, and you want to make a connection to them, where can you go to buy something that will foster that connection with them, nowhere except here. What about if you are a mom and your son turns out to be the biggest geek on earth and your son wants to have a Superman party but you still want to look cute? You can buy a dress here."
Not only is Geeky Mamas a space for those looking to purchase hard-to-find items, but it's a haven for individual, local artists who want to sell their wares. It's a safe space where the artists can make a little money, and sometimes even a living, off their hard work, creativity and original craftsmanship. All the apparel, bags and accessories sold at Geeky Mamas is either handmade by an artist or customized by the Geeky Mamas team.
Ultimately, Joel spoke proudly of his wife's idea to create a space for artists.
"My wife also wanted to create a retail space for her mom and women like her mom," Joel said. "You sometimes find these people, and not just women, who are at home, taking care of their kids, trying to make ends meet, and sometimes they’re creating at night just to keep sane. And they’re creating these elaborate, beautiful things and throwing them in the closet. So where can they go without having to set up a booth at a swap meet or at a convention that costs you money, costs you time, where can you go and present your stuff and sell it to the public where you will be treated with respect and dignity and direction? Here at Geeky Mamas."
When asked why Joel chose Long Beach for the home of one of the four locations, he spoke of the city's originality compared to Geeky Mama's inventory and the city's always interesting cross section of locals and tourists.
"The reason I like Long Beach is because we sell really unique things, we sell things that once they’re gone they’re pretty much permanently gone," Joel said. "Even our toys, the average toy here was made in 1996...and the stuff is handmade. Everything here is handmade. You can say, ‘Hey do you still have that dress?' Nope. 'Can you make another one?' Nope, we sold it. It’s done. It’s gone.
"And we definitely feel that we like places that have an intersection of tourists and locals. And Long Beach, like Anaheim, like Buena Park, there are intersections of tourists and locals. We find that local people enjoy having a store like us around, that they can call their own, that will remember who they are as a customer. To us, customer service means everything, because we understand that we don’t sell things people necessarily need, we sell things that people want. But we also understand that sometimes when you travel you want to find something that’s very unique, that’s very particular to that town...
"We’re not going to offer you a souvenir made in China, and I mean no disrespect toward that, but we’re not going to offer you a mass produced souvenir and say, ‘Haha, take it.’ We are a place where the locals can take pride that we’re theirs, and the tourists can say ‘Wow, I picked this up, that’s the only place I’ve ever seen one like that. I got something good out of this trip. I can put this in my suitcase. What a nice place to visit.’"
For the Geeky Mamas family, the Long Beach Comic Con best reflects the kind of service, brand and overall vibe that they themselves want to represent. For Joel and Andrea, Geeky Mamas has become just as much about the experience while shopping just as much as it is about having to make an honest living.
"The Long Beach Comic Con in my opinion—and I’ve been to all of them, I’ve been to WonderCon, San Diego, all of them, either as a vendor or as a guest—the one thing that I think stands out about Long Beach Comic Con is that it’s what a lot of us call the 'last honest con,'" Joel said. "I hate to word it that way, not to say that the other ones are dishonest, but it’s truly a family convention. And the people who run it—Phil and Martha—they’re very accessible. I mean you will find Phil and Martha running the front. They care. They truly care about the vendors.
"What we expect there...they represent who we are. You know, I could literally not take any clothing, I could take nothing but toys and I could make more money. But that’s not who we are. I’m not just a guy that sells stuff out of his garage. Who we brand ourselves is important to us. I think that the Long Beach Comic Con allows us that opportunity."
Joel found Andrea at the first Geeky Mamas in Cerritos Mall, who had been a loyal customer for a long time. She worked next door at GameStop and would frequently visit Geeky Mamas. Joel said, “Andrea is my right arm. She was one of our earliest customers. She always came in with a different guy... No, I’m just kidding! We just called her the player. No, no, I’m kidding!”
As the two laughed together, Andrea with an eye-roll and Joel with a grin, when asked how she entered the world of comics, Andrea said she really wasn’t into them, or at least not the typical kind.
“I have a hard time reading super hero comics," Andrea said. "I like more of the… there’s one called Fables and it’s about fairy tale characters in the real world so it’s actually kind of dark. I’ve always kind of liked this world I guess.
'I just like that it’s kind of an escape from reality and it’s interesting to see what people come up with. It’s very creative, in that sense, so I just like the fantasy, adventure, humor, all that good stuff. It’s cool getting to know characters. I got my first video game system when I was five, and it went uphill from there. Notice that I didn’t say downhill. Then I started getting into anime, and then that led to Star Wars, so it’s kind of like you start with one thing and then you can dabble from there.”
When asked how being a geek feeds her soul, Andrea’s answer was about human connection. While, in her own words, she’s not too creative, she finds solace in the bonds one can form with another who is also into Star Trek, or Fables or whatever it is you’re into.
“I personally am not too creative, but it’s more just the audience, it’s really fun talking to people that are into the same hobby because you can seriously talk for hours," she explained. "You can make really good friends, because even though it’s very mainstream there’s a small group that likes the same exact thing that you do. So I think just the interactions with people and being able to go to conventions and what not is what really brings the most out of it for me.”
Geeky Mamas will be tabling at the Long Beach Comic Con, so make sure to stop by and chat with the owner, Joel, and maybe you’ll find something truly unique for a loved one or yourself. While the Geeky Mamas website is currently under construction, you can check out their Facebook page here. The Geeky Mamas Long Beach store is located at 81 S. Pine Ave.