Culture News

Red Hot Robot Says Goodbye, Local Artists Find New Venues to Sell Their Work

When Jason Kiningham opened the doors of Red Hot Robot for the final time this past weekend to sell off the remainder of the store's merchandise, there wasn't much left to sell.

"I told people that everything had to go and everything did go," Kiningham says, "Almost amazingly so."

After announcing the impending closure of his CenPho designer toy boutique two weeks ago, Kiningham expected to stay open through the end of the month. His customers, however, had other ideas. By Saturday afternoon, the shop had been cleaned that was left was a few greeting cards, a box of posters, and a few Kidrobot Fly Guys Zipper Pulls. As a result, Red Hot Robot closed for good that evening.

But while Valley vinyl toys fanatics mourn the loss of the landmark boutique, which was the first store in the Valley dedicated to designer playthings, local toy creators are exploring other avenue to sell their wares.

Kiningham says there are no shortage of locally owned shops that will sell custom toys by Valley artist, including Lulubell Toy Bodega in Mesa.


"Its lucky that Lulubell has come into town and they'll be working with a lot of local artists. Also, the gift shop SMoCA and MADE will carry most of the same artists and creators that we carried, like Sebastien Millon, George Thomas, and Steamcrow," he says. "Sales of designer toys might be down nationwide for the bigger companies, but I know there's still a lot of interest in local artists."

Works by local toymakers and art creators were sold on consignment at Red Hot Robot pretty much since it first opened in 2007 near Stinkweeds. Ironically enough, it was some of the first merchandise to leave the store once he announced the closure, either getting bought up by patrons or picked up by artists.

"I really thought [merchandise] was going to stick around and I'd have to put all the fixtures on Craigslist, but my customer's support has been incredible," he says. "I feel like Jimmy Stewart from It's a Wonderful Life when everyone turned out at the end of the movie."

Now that everything's gone, Kiningham plans on "taking some time off, regrouping, working on the portfolio, and taking care of taxes." He also needs to find room for the pile of artwork and schwag that was made by artist friends and dropped off over the weekend, including a custom skate deck and vinyl figures made by artist Denone.

He's also planning a few vacations, like maybe a visit with his family back in Illinois.
"Having a store I got to take a few weekend trips but not many full vacations. And even though I had great employees, I still was in contact with the store and it always was on my mind so I never got to fully detach," he says. "And now it's time to detach for a bit."

But that doesn't mean that he's ready to see Red Hot Robot completely in the rearview mirror. In fact, Kiningham says there's a possibility he might resurrect the store sometime in the future, either as a pop-up or for special events.

"Who knows? Never say never," he says. "Red Hot Robot is leaving right now but that doesn't mean it's gone forever. It could always comeback as a Zombie Robot instead ... I have had a couple people suggest that I do the guest curator thing with an art show. We'll see what the future holds."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.