The Collectors: Lebanon’s Only Pop Culture Store Brings Fun and Inspiration to Everyone.

by | May 2024

WHILE THE superheroes of our childhood may not be real, their effect cannot be denied. Whether you love them for the lessons they taught, the stories they told, or simply the memories you made, you can explore that childhood nostalgia at Lebanon’s newest and only pop culture store, The Collectors. There, comic books, action figures, decor, and more await a loving home, watched over by co-owners Brandon Mathis and Wade Ricketts. 

The Collectors may have opened in November 2022, but it really began years earlier when a young Mathis first began to love comics. As a child with separated parents, Mathis said he found both lessons and inspiration in the superheroes portrayed. 

“Batman says, ‘Always be prepared.’ So, guess what? Now I’m always prepared,” Mathis said. “I’ve got a plan A, plan B, [and] plan C — and then Superman says, ‘And never give up.’ So, I’ll never give up. I’m going to keep on trying, keep on doing better.” 

As he got older, Mathis’ love of superheroes led him to cosplay and attend birthday parties dressed as “Spiderman.” He was one of the few characters in the area who would talk and used the opportunity to share those inspirational messages with the children he met. Then, he got a new opportunity — the chance to hang out with a distressed child after his father had kidnapped him. They played together, with “Spiderman” doing his best to take the child’s mind off of the things happening in his life. 

“We jumped on the trampoline, and we played with his toys in his room,” Mathis said. “It was an awesome little thing.” 

After that, Mathis said he started advertising for worried parents to “just give Spiderman a call.” 

“I got to the point where I was getting to just walk around stores with kids and just go on about their daily stuff,” Mathis said. “That was like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” 

The hope was that the kids he interacted with would be influenced for the better or, at the very least, distracted from the negative things in their lives. The Collectors could have a similar influence, introducing people to those positive messages and role models. Mathis was preparing for that opportunity, even if he didn’t know it, as he and his future co-owner were building their own collection of comic books, figures, and other collectibles. In fact, much of The Collectors’ original stock was from Mathis’ and Ricketts’ personal supply, which they gathered over many years as they worked at Nissan together. 

“I made a lot of money, so I had plenty of money to spend,” Mathis said. “I amassed a huge inventory of stuff, and with no intention to sell.” 

It was a change of houses that made him realize just how many collectibles he had, and he brought up the idea of starting a pop culture store to Ricketts. It took several years, but when the time was right, Mathis began researching how to open a business. His research led him to Lebanon, a town that had no other pop culture or collectible stores, so The Collectors joined the Wilson County community. 

“The ball just kept rolling, and the information kept coming in,” Mathis said. “I got help from other store owners — other business owners — and [it’s] been going great ever since.” 

Mathis said his wife, Samantha, has also been a great help, as she is the reason he is able to run The Collectors at all. As a new business, The Collectors is only paying its own bills, so her work supports the family. That won’t be true for much longer, as the store is still growing. Mathis said they are hoping to add a wider variety of comic book publishers, more valuable collectibles, and maybe even a tabletop card game area for the community. In the meantime, The Collectors still has something for everyone, whether they are fans of pop culture or have never gotten involved in the genre. 

“What reminds you of something that [you] did when you were a kid? What did you play with? What did you watch?” Mathis asked. “I guarantee you, there’s some kind of superhero or cartoon or anime for whatever you do.” GN 

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