Two people pose in Super Yaki T-shirts

Houston’s Super Yaki shopan online store that sells gear for people's favorite fandoms, began with a hobby, a single Ikea shelf, and a tweet. With a name that, in the words of owner Andrew Ortiz, “means less than nothing,” the makeshift movie merchandise outlet has taken the internet by storm, inspiring fans across the globe to shout their opinions and celebrate their fandoms. 

The online store partners with Night Owls Printing to produce whimsical, unique designs on tees, stickers, water bottles, and more that have caught the eyes of countless movie-lovers over the years. Ortiz, a son of immigrants and a native Houstonian, started Super Yaki in March of 2016 out of a desire to create fun, geeky products, with the goal of it becoming a self-sustainable and continuously enjoyable business. “When we started the shop, it existed in a single Ikea shelf—and not one of the big ones. And it slowly grew from there to my closet, to the laundry room, to its current home in the now-abandoned guest bedroom,” Ortiz explains. “My wife swears she doesn't mind." 

Whether you’re renting new releases from the comfort of your couch cushions or dipping your toes into the buttery goodness of socially distanced cinema visits, movies and television continue to be great escapes from the ongoing mess of news otherwise bombarding our screens. That departure from reality might only last a mere 90 minutes or so, but the Super Yaki team is prepared to help you carry your fandom onto the streets, or even just to the next room over. “Basically, we love movies,” Ortiz said. “If your enjoyment of a piece of pop culture is rooted in an earnest and loving place, who's to tell you that you should feel guilty or wrong about it?” 

A woman poses in a Super Yaki T-shirt

Image: Cass Tooke

The store recently released and wrapped its massive timed-collection (customers only had a limited amount of time to order), Space Wizards: Episode II, featuring Star Wars-influenced pieces that inspire fans to share their love of the franchise, even the parts that might have received criticism in the past or don’t receive enough validation within the community in the first place. Ortiz believes that audiences should feel free to watch whatever they want, unfettered from irony and embarrassment. “This is just my way of getting people off my back for enjoying The Phantom Menace,” he jokes.

What's one of their most popular products? The “Judy Greer Should’ve Been the Lead" tees. “We made these on a whim and were going to be content if we had sold the original run of 25," Ortiz says, "but they ended up not only becoming one of the most popular items in our shop, but a turning point at a time for us when we weren't sure what direction to go in.” 

Word-of-mouth sales fuel the store, with patrons tweeting and posting images donning Super Yaki’s designs. “We exist entirely at the mercy of social media and all the wonderful people on there,” Ortiz stresses.

Though they believe that the ethics of many social platforms can and should be called into question and properly regulated, the team at Super Yaki has a soft spot for their bright, cozy corner of the internet.

“We thoroughly enjoy, with every fiber of our being, the community of fellow like-minded movie dorks we've come to meet through social media,” Ortiz says. “It's not lost on me that these are actual human beings who are voluntarily giving us their hard-earned money to support the growth of our shop, so while yes, in the technical sense, they're customers, I hope we can convey how much more than that it feels to us.”

The Super Yaki team intends to take some time off of advertising new collections after their busy Space Wizards run, but they let Houstonia in on a taste of their October theme, promising Guillermo del Toro content that they hope will excite shoppers. 

Ortiz promised to donate 10 percent of August’s proceeds to the Houston Food Bank, and plans to select an organization to contribute to in September, stating that there’s no shortage of communities in need of help, especially in these times. “At a time when everything is utter garbage and being online can only magnify the stench, I hope we've been able to carve out a tiny section of goodwill and tolerance.”

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