The first thing you see when you walk up to the Magnolia Boulevard storefront of Geeky Teas & Games is the unmistakable royal blue of an honest-to-goodness life-size Tardis.
If you’re a Whovian, you’re going to want to visit the Burbank shop for the priceless Tardis photo opp alone.
If you’re an anglophile, tabletop gaming enthusiast, board game fanatic, into Dungeons & Dragons, a tea connoisseur, Harry Potter-phile, comic book nerd, Buffy the Vampire Slayer acolyte, Sherlock devotee, or cat lover, you’re also going to want to drop by Geeky Teas & Games.
The shop was founded by Donna Ricci, former owner of steampunk clothiers Clockwork Couture, once the headquarters of epic secret gaming meetups. Ricci spun elements of her previous business into a “classier” destination for gaming and general nerdery, complete with fun themed rooms, British snacks and fandom-inspired blends. The shop also functions as an events center, craft faire headquarters, and cat rescue.
So if you’re looking for a place to pick up unique, local vendor-made gifts or a tin of “Earl Grey, Hot,” “African Dream Root,” or “Deadpoolong,” hang out with like-minded pop culture fans and play D&D, maybe play-test a developer’s new game, or partake in some old-fashioned party or geek-themed board games in replicas of the living rooms from Sherlock and Stranger Things, you’ve come to the right place.
And if you’re looking to rescue a cute kitty, that’s even better.
You own Geeky Teas & Games, a gifts and gaming store that also rescues adorable kitties, located on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank. How did you first hatch the idea for the store?
It started with after-hours secret gaming groups in my steampunk clothing store, Clockwork Couture. When friends told me they’d rather buy from me, I started carrying a small selection. When I decided to get out of fashion, it seemed natural to keep the parts of the business that made me happy.
What prompted you to focus on tea and games?
We did our unique blends of teas before, and why not make a classier game store with British snacks and gaming? As an Anglophile, it seems to me like they go together well.
Our recreation of the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes living room and our TARDIS hits the idea home.
The store seems very community-oriented. How would you describe your demographic or customer base?
Our store is made up of a wonderfully diverse blend of genders and personalities within our customers. I’ve always loved people and I think that comes through in our store. I get excited when someone discovers us for the first time, but I also adore our band of regulars who have become like family to me.
I’ve always believed in giving back to the community that has supported me so we host craft faires for local artists, movie nights, storytelling nights, stand-up comedy, and more.
There are irresistible felines roaming your store on a daily basis. How did the rescue component, GeeKitties, come to be?
It started at our steampunk clothing store as Clockwork Couture. I think all businesses have a moral obligation to give back to their neighborhoods and this is one way I could do that and feel personally invested and stay passionate about.
I take it you’re a cat lady?
I’m an everything lady. We’ve also rescued dogs, ferrets, hummingbirds, squirrels, hedgehogs, snakes, and even a horse. Cats, however, are the easiest to house in-store.
What’s your geek origin story? How and when did you discover and embrace this part of yourself?
I don’t know that I have an origin story. My brothers were geeks and it was very much a single religion household (Star Wars), but in my effort to be closer to my brother Shawn, I snuck into his room to read his D&D books, play Talisman, and look at his collection of toys. I didn’t think I was being geeky when I latched onto media like Buffy, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and comic books because I was surrounded by others who were into it, so it seemed quite normal.
The first thing you see when you walk up to the shop is a life-size blue Tardis. Inside the store, there’s also a life-size Dalek. I take it you’re a Whovian?
I did immediately fall in love when the intro started and, of course, fell into the “He DIED?!?!? I’m never gonna like the new guy as well!” Okay, that did happen after Tennant left but I’m am LOVING Jodie Whitaker.
Where on Earth — or outside of Earth — did that Tardis come from?
Watching Doctor Who, I thought, “How much would I lose my shit if I was walking along and spotted one in a place I did not expect to see it?” and then I realized others might have the same reaction. So with schematics created by Grant Imahara (of MythBusters), and the help of my husband and friends, we built her. She’s one of my great loves.
Who’s your Doctor?
David Tennant, followed by Eccleston, with Jodie quickly creeping up on that No. 2 spot.
What are some of your other favorite fandoms?
Buffy has my heart and soul, but Firefly, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Monty Python, Big Bang Theory, Mr. Bean, The Young Ones, and Back to the Future helped form the sassy geek you see here at Geeky Teas & Games.
Geeky Teas & Games is an anglophile’s dream with a great selection of handmade and fandom-related merchandise. Where do you source the items you sell?
Anywhere I can! We have an importer who brings in our snack foods and grocer items, and our local artisans create a great many fandoms. Sometimes we commission our favorite Beeb (BBC) shows ourselves to offer.
You often host fun craft and vendor faires at the shop. You seem to have a good relationship with local geek vendors. How did that develop?
You can do it all, right? I love to shop and support others.
Once you tell them how much you love their work, they really open up about their process. When I realized I could help them and fill up our gigantic event space at the same time, it seemed natural to have a relationship that benefits us both.
The tea component of Geeky Teas involves in-house blends of “fandom with flavor.” (They’re available to order online, too.) Tell me about the process of developing one of your blends.
Well, it started with “Ear Grey, Hot” and went from there. I will research the beverages in different films and TV and imagine what they would be like. Our African Dream Root tea is inspired by the show Supernatural. While it does help you sleep, I think ours tastes much better.
Where do you find inspiration for your themed teas? Do you tend to start with a flavor profile or a geeky theme first?
It’s a mixed bag. With our Oolong, I just kept saying the word over and over in my head before blurting out “Deadpoolong.”
Why do you think so many geeks are into tea, anyway?
I love coffee. LOVE coffee, but tea is the thinking person’s beverage of choice. Few overthink things quite like geeks.
Let’s talk about the gaming. What type of game play/events does Geeky Teas offer?
While most of the time we are open play, we help out developers with play-test nights, tournaments, LOTS of Dungeons and Dragons, I run party games on Saturday nights, and we have singles game nights.
The shop’s gaming spaces aren’t just boring, empty spaces. For instance, there’s an awesome Stranger Things-themed space. Tell me more about the atmosphere.
I have a special affection for sourcing just the right items to re-create what I saw on a show that I love. I want to be IN Lorelei Gilmore’s kitchen. I want to make a place that appeals to you and makes you have emotions based on how much you love those shows.
I know running a geek-themed business like your shop can be challenging. What kind of work and effort goes into it?
It’s all about reconditioning the customer who is used to stores that don’t put cleanliness as their first priority. You’d be surprised how often people say “thank you” when I tell them it’s a rule that they MUST wash their hands to play our games.
What do you most enjoy about it?
Introducing someone to their new favorite tea or game is delightful when the realization of such washes over their face.
Geek culture can be kind of male dominated. What’s your experience been like as a woman in this business?
Any time I’m talking to a male customer and someone comes up to ask a question, they always look at the male for an answer. There is some joy in breaking down that stereotype when I accurately and articulately answer their obscure questions. Women come into my store with a more relaxed attitude knowing the atmosphere here will not tolerate anything less than respect for all genders.
What are your future goals/dreams for Geeky Teas & Games?
We are working on our beer and food serving license so that we can serve tea in store. I’ve always thought we were “Nerd Cheers” so having beer would solidify that.
What’s left on your geek bucket list?
Go back into fashion but with a geekier flavor. Clothes that make you feel good about yourself, but that are made locally and are comfortable.
If someone reading this is looking to adopt a cute kitty, what should they do?
Come on over! Well, go to Facebook.com/GeeKitties and fill out an application. I’ll help pair you up with someone who fits your lifestyle
If someone wants to contribute to your kitty rescue efforts, how would they go about that?
We always need food and litter! (You can donate here.)