Newport News is a shithole, it always has been and always will be. That being said, it had a few diamonds that made it tolerable and one of these was Fantasy on Jefferson Ave. Growing up, it was a beacon of culture located next door to one of the sleaziest dive bars the East Coast. Despite the fact that you had to be 18 to go in, we would still risk it only to get kicked out minutes later.
The smell is what I remember most. Even when they moved locations the place had this certain musk that comes from 35 years of unbathed punk kids coming in from the summer swamp heat. This was not the place for the Hot Topic crowd, Fantasy was the real thing and had just as much impact on the local underground scene as any DJ or promoter. This is where we could find the CDs you couldn’t get at Tower or anywhere else outside of Richmond or DC.
Now they’re closing and I’m pissed I won’t be able to roll one in the parking lot and give the place a proper send off. Yes, my friends, this is going to be the very last holiday season for these guys so fuck Amazon, this place has way cooler stuff. Thanks to the interwebs, I was able to get in touch with the owner who was cool enough to answer a few questions and give us a peek behind the scenes over the past 35 years.
CulinaryAnarchy:How did you get started?
Fantasy: In 1985 I was working at the shipyard and had a part time job after at a variety store that specialized in adult products. It was called The Arcade and it’s been in downtown Newport News forever. I think it’s still there, the very last business to survive downtown. At any rate the owner used to go to the NY trade shows and I asked that if I paid my own way if I could go. I made valuable business contacts and a few months later that same owner helped me out by loaning me a pile of merchandise he couldn’t sell. I took it to the flea market and sold it. Started adding other stuff and selling that too. There was a strong learning curve, but all that became Fantasy after I got laid off at the shipyard.
CA: Why are you closing after 35 years?
Fantasy: The short answer is I’m 65 and retiring.
CA: How many times did the cops try to shut you down over the years?
Fantasy: None. There was one paraphernalia raid with 14 federal agents that wasn’t a lot of fun. We came to an agreement.
CA: How many times did you get broken into?
Fantasy: There’s been one attempt, no one ever got in we have alarms and cameras.
CA: Did you think it would last this long?
Fantasy: You never really think about that, you just try and keep going.
CA: What was the best thing about owning the shop?
Fantasy: Being in “the industry.” As a record store, I use to get free passes for shows, backstage access, free CDs and records, signed stuff. Business owners are respected and I traveled to NYC and then Vegas a few times a year for trade shows and have just as many friends who attend the trade shows as I have here at home. maybe more.
CA: What was the worst?
Fantasy: Being solely responsible for the business and up to 14 employees at one time. I never wanted to have anyone working for me, I’m socially awkward, not a good judge of character and employees have been my biggest problem issue for 32 years. There has always been a handful of employees that were the best, but well over 75% were problems. Don’t fall for the hype about American workers being the best
CA: What’s some of the weirdest shit that ever happened at the store? Fantasy: Customer brought a rattlesnake to the store for me to see. Another customer introduced me to his new boyfriend 2 days before he beheaded and dismembered him. The owner at the flea market melted down on me, and I thought a federal raid was an April Fool joke…..
CA: How did owning a shop like this change you over the years?
Fantasy: It set me up in a lifestyle of music appreciation and basically set up the course my life would follow. I do and appreciate things differently than if I was about to retire from the shipyard, but it’s hard to say what might be different. My stomach probably wouldn’t hurt as much…..
Seriously, if you’re in the 757 or the seven cities or whatever they’re calling it now, go do your holiday shopping here and show some respect for a spot that’s been supporting the scene longer than damn near anyone else in the area.