- Kevin Stoll
- HOLY NERD NEST! And by nerd nest we mean a fine place for discriminating comic-book fans to gather and appreciate the finer examples of the genre.
Every comic book and toy collector has a story about the one that got away.
Whether it's a beloved book that was traded in haste, a prized action figure that disappeared on vacation or a video game that no kid's allowance could afford, North Bay collectors looking to recapture their childhood riches can now rejoice. The Batcave is here to save the day.
Santa Rosa's latest vintage store, located appropriately in a basement of one of Railroad Square's oldest buildings, the Batcave is a treasure trove of old-school comics and toys that instantly transports any child of the '60s through the '90s back to bygone days.
The Batcave is owned and operated by Michael Holbrook, founder of the Santa Rosa Toy Con, and his business partners Gabriel Vaughn and Andy Mayhew.
A lifelong collector, Holbrook is an '80s kid, obsessed with Transformers, GI Joe and Star Wars.
"Ten years ago, when my grandma passed on, we found two boxes of all my original toys we thought had disappeared," says Holbrook. "It just rekindled the fire and I started collecting more."
Holbrook's concept for the store preceded his Toy Con, which marks five years when it returns to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Sept. 23. He met Vaughn, a fellow collector, and Mayhew through the Toy Con, and they joined forces to form the business.
"As a comic collector, there was really nowhere to go for old stuff, for anything classic," says Vaughn.
To that point, the Batcave's impressive inventory includes a wall of high-quality comic books from as far back as the 1950s. First or early appearances of characters like Iron Man and the Silver Surfer are on display, and boxes of back issues from dozens of popular titles help collectors fill in the gaps in their personal stashes.
Beyond the books, the store is packed with vintage figures and video games that unlock childhood nostalgia. "It's a place where almost anybody could walk in and say, 'I had that,'" says Vaughn. "Like many, I came from a divorced family, and that stuff you had as a kid was very important."
Holbrook adds that the store is also a place to share these remembered treasures with the next generation. "One of my favorite things is seeing a father come in with his kid and pass on a piece of their childhood," he says.
To keep the store's inventory fresh, Holbrook buys comics and toys, and sells items on consignment, updating the shelves on a daily basis. "We try to have a little of everything for all ages here," Holbrook says.
Like the Santa Rosa Toy Con, which this year boasts special guests like Star Trek actors Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols as well as an expanded selection of vendors and hands-on activities, the Batcave is both affectionate and accessible in its operation.
"I want people leaving with a smile on their face," Holbrook says. "It is a passion, I wouldn't do it any other way."