We had the good fortune of connecting with Dov Kelemer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dov, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I had a few jobs working for other people when I was in my teens but I always knew I could do most of it better myself. I wanted to reap the rewards for my ingenuity, not someone else. By the time I was 18 I was in business for myself and never looked back. Not until I sold part of my business in 2016 did I actually work for anyone else. (I put in a day a week working for the buyers to keep everything running smoothly managing vendors that I have long standing relationships with.) The saying goes that there are two types of self employed people, those who want to go out there and conquer the world and those that can’t hack it working for someone else. I guess I am still not sure which one I am.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Dov Kelemer & Sarah Jo Marks are Co-Founders of DKE Toys which was the largest independent wholesale distributor of designer toys, limited edition art objects, collectibles, and gifts in the world exclusively representing hundreds of artists, designers, and boutique manufacturers. As of February 1st, 2016 the wholesale distribution arm of the business was sold to Disburst Ltd. Currently DKE Toys does about 4 conventions a year in which artists from all over the world create limited artist edition figures. Each piece is generally made out of hand poured resin and many are hand painted on custom printed (and sometimes hand drawn) card backs. Often as many as 20 different artists participate in a given show. Many have commented that the DKE booth at these various shows looks like a small art exhibition. While these figures are generally referred to as “bootlegs” they are far from pirated versions of mass marketed toys. Each of these artists use transformative properties in their work to communicate ideas that are often political, parody, or commentary about the pop culture world we live in. We run a very unique business and are the only ones who really sell these items apart from the artists themselves.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When we moved our business to the Valley one of the hidden treasures we discovered were the Tacos!!! Anytime someone comes to town we can roll out a custom taco tour to fit your mood from restaurants to street vendors.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people that were helpful along the way. My family has always been supportive of me pursuing my dreams. My Mom let me live at home until I was 28 and then I bought a house and moved the business there. My wife Sarah Jo Marks is my backbone and put up with the boxes in that house until we got a warehouse. Steve Sansweet mentioned me in the acknowledgements of his first Star Wars price guide which gave me instant credibility. Jay Demircift from Puzzle Zoo trusted me and gave me free reign in his many stores to place collectible product. Gaston Dominguez-Letelier of Meltdown Comics told me I was going to be the Diamond Comics of designer toys and set me up as a distributor. Artist Frank Kozik vouched for me to everyone and told them, “Dov’s cool, he pays.” The Sucklord inspired a generation of artists to make art that we continue to sell to this day. Scott Kuenzli from Disburst Ltd. bought the distribution part of my business ultimately freeing me from bondage. Ian Wilcox is my sole employee now who manages the warehouse and does every conceivable job to make things run properly. There are literally thousands more friends, partners, colleagues, employees, customers, vendors, artists and designers who helped each step of the way that were instrumental in our success.