Geeks, Nerds and Pop Culture Fandom Have a New Headquarters
By Bethany Maile Photos Kimberlee Miller
State Street’s Re-POP! Gifts is as much of an experience as it is a store. When customers walk in, they will be struck not just by the vast inventory—kitschy, humorous novelties, from magnets, socks and mugs to the plaques, pillows and stamps of the flea market-crafters studio mix–but also, by the fandom fixtures that make Re-POP! a shopping encounter unlike any other in the Treasure Valley. For example, in the center of the store, a to-scale, exact replica of Doctor Who’s tardis dominates as a dressing room. Behind that, shoppers can take a spin—literally—in Captain Kirk’s Star Trek series original command chair. The back wall of the store poses as the signature Stranger Things living room wall, with a meticulous recreation of the famous floral wallpaper with its coded letters and haphazard Christmas lights. Harry Potter fans will delight in the iconic Platform Nine and Three-Quarters constructed in the back corner. This spring, owner Millie Hilgert plans to add a Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole from The Lord of the Rings series. Each of these installations is a permanent fixture in the store, and shoppers can stop in to have their picture taken and printed—for free. Hilgert keeps a green screen behind the installations so the final image is a total immersion into the recreated world.
These installations aren’t just unique in the Treasure Valley. Barry Hilgert, Millie’s husband, plans and executes the recreations. “I don’t know anywhere else where you can shop and get a picture on the [Star Trek] enterprise, or hang out in the tardis. It’s the only exact replica in the world,” he explained. He is meticulous in his construction. The tardis is measured in metrics so as to be true to the British show’s standards. He also made an original stormtrooper armor, screen-accurate to the 1977 Star Wars movie. The Hilgerts had to hunt for the now-out-of-production wood paneling for the Stranger Things wall. This attention to detail creates an entire world for fans. “It’s not just a store,” Millie added. “It’s an experience. Our customers bring their friends, they bring their visitors. People come in and just laugh. In the age of Amazon, you have to be excited to go into a store; it ought to be fun.”
Fun is at the core of all things Re-POP!, and that doesn’t just apply to the store’s wares. Hilgert is always looking for opportunities to throw a party. Each time an installation is complete, the store hosts a reveal event. This spring, when the hobbit hole debuts, Hilgert will offer refreshments and photo opps. Each June, the store throws itself a birthday party, complete with a bouncy house and sweet treats. Pop-up events are standard, too. This fall, Hilgert partnered with a comic book vendor to host a flash comic book sale. Around the holidays, the store holds a men’s shopping party, where staff are on hand to help the reluctant shopper find the perfect gift he’ll be excited to give.
This dedication to fun and community has served the store well. “Business is growing,” Hilgert said, “We’ve doubled in the last year.” And they have expanded in-store twice to make room for the ever-growing inventory. No surprise, as Re-Pop! Gifts’ blend of kitsch goods, local fun, and highly hashtag-able Instagram opps is unlike any other in town.
That unique quality is essential to Re-Pop! Gifts. When Hilgert opened shop two years ago, she was on a mission to bring cool (though she might say “geeky”), one-of-a-kind inventory to the Treasure Valley. But her love of all things pop doesn’t just drive the store’s curation. Before Re-POP! Gifts opened, Hilgert was a fixture at the Boise Farmers Market. There she sold the Miss Courageous jewelry line. The pieces are all up-cycled and pop-culture driven: bracelets from local breweries’ beer cans, pendants from vinyl records, earrings from Legos. Her artwork, which is now sold in the store, is as imaginative and pop-driven as the rest of the store’s offerings. And of course, it’s all one-of-a-kind.
Re-POP! Gifts features over 30 local artists plus several regional and national artists, and all inventory has been judiciously curated. Hilgert stocks only rare, hard-to-find items. “I’m careful to make sure things in the store aren’t mass-produced. You won’t find anything here sold in a large retail chain,” Hilgert said. She finds out-of-Idaho vendors through extensive Internet research. “If I love it and I want it, I know there are other people out there that are into it, too. If it makes me laugh while I’m looking at it, then I know it’s a great find,” Hilgert said.
The Hilgerts are locked and loaded for the holiday shopping rush. Check them out during Small Business Saturday, when the weekend after Thanksgiving State Street stores put on a “shop local” event. Hours will also be extended through the holiday season, and custom orders are always welcome. Because Hilgert works with so many vendors, shoppers looking for an imaginative, one-of-a-kind gift would be wise to bring her their idea. She can likely execute it herself or pair you with an artist who can. New inventory, store events, and installation debuts are all posted on the store’s Facebook and Instagram pages, @repopgifts.
Hilgert clearly has her thumb on the pop culture pulse, and the result is an always-evolving inventory that feels contemporary and of-the-moment. Take the Stranger Things wall. The show premiered in 2016, and Hilgert understood it would have an immediate cult following. So she and her husband, Barry, imagined and executed the iconic living room wall immediately. Because the1990s television series Twin Peaks was just rebooted, Hilgert recently stocked Log Lady tee shirts and The Great Northern Hotel key chains. If these references elude the reader or customer, never fear. The store’s inventory is so extensive there is likely something for everyone. And that inside-joke quality is part of Re-POP! Gifts’ magic. Here, people can smile wryly at the pencil with the Ferris Bueller quote, the Big Lebowski coloring book, the “Be Cool, Honey Bunny” tank top. Here, they get to find the rare, special trinket that is sure to delight them or someone they know.
For more information, visit repopgifts.com, visit them in person at 3107 W. State Street in Boise or call them at (208) 991-6112.