International Drive, or “I-Drive” as it’s known to locals and frequent visitors, is a known tourist destination in Orlando. Close to the theme parks and a short drive to downtown Orlando, this street is home to the Orange County
Convention Center as well as a number of hotels, mini golf locations, the chain restaurants, over-priced themed bars, tattoo parlors, dinner theaters, a ton of convenience stores. It doesn’t pull in the locals; in fact, most locals do everything possible to avoid driving on this street. There is not much there to appeal to them; therefore it’s deemed not worth fighting through the traffic. For the local businesses, this means that it can be a struggle to get by. They can get the tourists into their shops, but no one can figure out how to get the locals in during off-season.
Artegon Marketplace, formerly known as “Festival Bay”, is trying to do this. No longer a typical mall, this shopping center has changed its format to be more of a giant upscale artsy flea market. It is an original idea for Orlando. There are large malls here as well as a few indoor flea markets, but none really match this concept. Most of the products are higher end (with a higher price point) and much more creative (you won’t find the typical cheap three for $9 Florida towel sales here like you will on the rest of I-drive.) While many of the products will appeal to the tourists, it almost seems as if the mall is trying to court local visitors more and more. They are even doing themed events like Food Truck days and a Wine Stroll. If you are looking for something a little different while exploring International Drive, it is definitely worth making a stop to check it out.
That said, it doesn’t appear that the Marketplace is doing too well. Even on a Saturday, the mall was quiet. A few locals stopped to catch a movie at the Cinemark location at the end of the mall (they have some of the cheapest matinee shows in Orlando!), some browsed around the Bass Pro shop and the vendor stalls in the middle but, other than that, it was very peaceful (the exact opposite of their competitors at the nearby Florida Mall. A Saturday afternoon there is hectic, loud, and packed.)
Until we arrived at Gods and Monsters, the new comic book store at Artegon Marketplace.
It was opening day, and this comic book store had people all around. The inside was almost wall-to-wall with tons of visitors, cosplayers, and entertainers in the mall hallway and even outside the building on the sidewalks drawing people in. Walking in to this comic book store was an experience of its own.
Gods and Monsters can certainly throw an event. However, there was a lot of open space here that I hope they fill soon. They have some tables in the back that would be perfect for geeky meetups, game nights, etc. They also featured a TON of figurines and a fair amount of games for sale. There weren’t many comic books though, which surprised me a little. I guess when we decided to go check out the second largest comic book store, I just pictured aisles and aisles of comics. There were quite a few there, but they are the larger collected editions rather than the standard comic books (so if you’re a big fan who wanted to slip over and grab the latest edition while you’re in the area, this is not the place to go.)
Could Gods and Monsters be the store to help save Artegon Marketplace? Possibly. The geek scene is growing strong in Orlando. They do have a number of lovely, unique offerings, particularly in the way of local artists’ work. However, there wasn’t anything about it that would drag me in on the regular. I would go there just to look once or twice (it is very pretty), but it is not the sort of store where you would regularly go to browse. They are going to need to set up regular events to start dragging in visitors, perhaps even courting some of the local nerdy meetup groups into partnering for larger events. The store definitely has potential. I can’t wait to see what they do in the future!