Tuesday, May 7, 2013

This Week's Inspiring Pop Culture Moment: Jordan Hembrough

Courtesy of Travel Channel
Each week we take a look around our pop culture world and try to find one moment that stood out as the most inspiring. It might be a celebrity who is doing charitable things, a TV shows that inspires us to be better or a philosophy that we should all strive to live by. Here is this week's most inspiring pop culture moment.

There isn’t a kid in the world who doesn’t have dreams about what they want to be when they grow up. For some they have realistic ambitions like becoming a schoolteacher or a fireman. Others have loftier goals of being a prima ballerina or President of the United States. Even though Jordan Hembrough might not have imagined he’d become a Toy Hunter he developed a passion for playthings that he turned into a career at a very young age and has evolved into a TV series on the Travel Channel.
In a recent exclusive interview, Jordan talked about his early love of toys, recounting “I’m a Jersey boy — born and bred in Jersey. And I was really bitten by the pop culture-collecting bug back in the 1970s when Star Wars came out. I was your typical comic book, sci-fi geek. I had all the toys growing up. I had my posters in my bedroom.”

But unlike most kids, Jordan spun his hobby into a money making venture. “I really got into dealing and selling toys, believe it or not, when I was still in elementary school,” he recalled. “I had all my extra Star Wars action figures and I sold them to my classmates for extra milk money and extra ice cream sandwich money. I started doing it really professionally when I was 16 and never looked back.”
He has his father to thank for fueling his pastime growing up. Jordan acknowledged, “I remember my dad, when I was in second grade, he got me my first five Star Wars action figures. I remember those. He actually got them as a gift for me and they weren’t available. You couldn’t find them anywhere. And he’d been looking for them for a long time and he actually came to my school and brought them to me in class. And I was the most popular guy for show and tell that day, I’ll tell you that much.”

After graduating from college, Jordan took his interests to a whole new level. “I was a buyer for a chain of retail stores that specialized in sci-fi memorabilia and comic memorabilia. They had 13 stores around the world and it was called Star Lot and it was based on Star Log magazine, which was extremely popular back in the 1970s and 1980s. Just to give you a reference point, Star Log magazine is to comics and sci-fi what Newsweek would be to politics.”

He continued. “I was the corporate buyer for the chain and I bought and sold collectible toys for that chain or retail stores as well. So that was my first foray into the professional world where I was actually getting a paycheck buying for someone else. And then when the company shut down, I went out on my own.”

Of course, being one of the world’s most skilled toy hunters doesn’t guarantee that Jordan can find everything he’s looking for. He acknowledged that he’s been looking for one particularly elusive item for a long time. As he revealed, “I remember when I was a child I had a peddle car, which was a fire truck that my brother and I would drive around. And I’m still actually looking for that. It was a popular brand. It wasn’t anything super, super rare. But finding it intact and complete is something that’s extremely difficult. So I’m looking for that to try to get it back. I still have photos of me when I was like four years old, driving around in this peddle car, which is a fire truck.”

It’s hard to imagine he won’t find what he’s looking for. It’s that love of nostalgia that has been the basis of Jonathan’s success. As he admitted, “I’m really passionate about the toys I grew up with. It speaks to a generation where it was a simpler time. We didn’t have to deal with tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing or this explosion in Texas... It seemed like children were a lot more innocent back then. We didn't have an Internet. We didn’t have smart phones. And we could lose ourselves in a TV show and we could really connect with a TV character that was a good role model. That’s really what I miss.”

Jordan added, “Holding a toy from when we were children and bringing us back to that time period and just having that really warm memory and maybe taking it one step further and maybe passing along that passion to our children or our grandchildren, because I do see that a lot with the show. Parents are coming up to me and saying, ‘I watch the show with my children and I’m sharing the passion with them.’ And that’s really what I’m passionate about. It’s just that whole love of a simpler time.”

Tune in to Toy Hunter every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. Central on Travel Channel.

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