Based on an interview with Jim Chan, store photos by Lindsey Chan
Mint on Card has become a very popular purveyor of BJDs, representing many doll and doll fashion companies. The shop was not originally launched as a BJD store. In 2007, when Lindsey and Jim Chan decided to open a store, they were “much more focused on pop culture merchandise, mostly anime and manga and American comics and movie merchandise.” Mint on Card opened as both an online shop and as a brick and mortar store in Traverse City, Michigan in 2007. The company name came from a popular term used by collectors. According to Jim, “Many collectible toys and action figures are packaged in cellophane with the back of the package made of cardboard, or ‘card’. ‘Mint on card’ is a way for collectors to describe the condition of the toys they have. Being a little bit of the natural-born collector that Lindsey is, she thought it was appropriate to have our company’s name being that old collector’s phrase.”
Lindsey is an avid doll collector who started collecting Barbie and Jem dolls when she was 8. For a time, Lindsey ran a popular message board jemandfriends.com (a site built by Jim). She first discovered Asian ball jointed dolls in 2001 when she saw her first Volks Super Dolfie online. A few years later according to Jim, “We discovered that a doll shop in Deland, FL in 2004 was a dealer for Volks, and we were living in Orlando at the time. We took the one hour drive to Deland, and there they had a Megu.” Lindsey purchased the doll immediately. Megu, rechristened “Victoria” (after Lindsey’s sister’s middle name), was the first resin ball jointed doll that Lindsey acquired for her doll collection.
Jim and Lindsey have been making annual visits to family and friends in China since 2000. During one trip, Lindsey and Jim met the founder of Fantasy Doll. Lindsey thought she would enjoy having a few BJDs in the store, so she and Jim decided that the store should add the dolls to their inventory. As the BJD hobby grew, Mint on Card expanded their doll offerings. “Soon after we started selling BJDs, the hobby grew so much that we found ourselves facing the choice to either grow with the doll hobby and give up on the other part of our business, or take the more conservative route and play it safe with BJDs. We took the gamble and went exclusively with a BJD business, and it appears that we made the right choice.” Once they switched their store’s direction, they decided to give up the physical shop and run the business from home. “At that time, we knew the BJD business was still just a trickle, so we didn’t need all the space that the store had. BJD buyers are all over the country so we didn’t need a store front to conduct our internet based business. We literally moved our business to our basement in Spring of 2008 and rented out our building. That actually saved our business because we basically dodged the recession.”
Over the next few years, Mint on Card grew as an online BJD store, eventually to the point that it would no longer fit in the basement of the house. When the lease on the shop ended, Lindsey and Jim decided to move back in. They hired additional employees and set up Mint on Card as a BJD store. The retailer exclusively carries items from Chinese companies. “For our BJD business, we make it to our policy that we must communicate very very well with everyone. That includes our customers and our doll makers. It’s vital for us to be able to speak to both very clearly because we are the bridge between the two. We need our customers to like their dolls’ makers and our doll makers to know what our customers do or do not appreciate. For that reason, we decided that we would only work with doll makers that can either speak fluent Chinese or English. Traveling to China yearly is part of our business decision that we would go to China for a bonding experience with the doll makers and to see the new products first hand …Most of the doll lines we carry, we have met with the owners of the studio/company. We also really enjoy using the opportunity when we are there to find hidden gems, diamonds the rough, so to speak. For example, we discovered K2 in 2007. Back then they were just a little shop making some really cute outfits. But we were drawn to their quality and their price (a familiar theme) and approached the owner about selling his products to US BJD consumers.”
Jim and Lindsey have occasionally introduced Mint on Card exclusive dolls. Last winter the shop sold exclusive 16 cm tall Asleep Eidolon Peppermint and Spearmint. Recently the store released a Dollzone exclusive doll named Virgil. Jim said, “We had the concept of doing an old time western lawman. We didn’t know who we would propose the joint project to. During a trip to China in late 2010, we met with the owner and staff of DollZone in ShenZhen. When we went out to lunch together, they brought up the idea of doing a project with us to see if we were interested. After a few exchanges between me and Lindsey, we decided to bring up the idea of Virgil.” The 65 cm tall doll was unveiled in March of this year. The full-set version of Virgil the Lawman is a limited edition of 30.
Mint on Card currently sells their wares through the website, their new physical store and also occasionally at events.”We wanted to have a store front so that local folks and BJD fans from nearby states can come in to take a look at different doll lines in person and to try out clothes and shoes for their dolls. So far the response and visits from BJD fans have exceeded our expectations, and we have such a fun time every time someone comes to see us.” Mint on Card traveled to more conventions in the past, but now limits trips to events that are less than a day away from the store. Most of their business comes through the internet store. Mint on Card now carries a long list of Chinese companies making BJDs, clothing, shoes, eyes and wigs. They offer a popular layaway program for their customers. In addition MoC gives “munie” points with orders, and the points can be used towards future purchases. According to Jim, “We regard our business as more than just selling little resin people. I think our biggest asset is probably the shopping experience and customer service that Lindsey provides to our customers. I think that pretty sums up the secret of our success.”
Mint on Card online store. also visit them at their shop at: 811 W Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49684
Photos above: Entrance to Mint on Card store. concept art for Dollzone Virgil.