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Zombie Apocalypse Store’s Mike Monko talks knives, undead pets and billion-dollar ideas

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Mike Monko, president of Zombie Apocalypse Inc., poses in the Zombie Apocalypse Store, 3420 Spring Mountain Rd., Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. The store, which opened last November, sells survival gear, ammunition and Zombie-themed products.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Are You Ready for Zombies?

The Details

Zombie Apocalypse Store
3420 Spring Mountain Road, 320-0703

Sun coverage

Mike Monko doesn’t know the zombiefather. He can’t rattle off Max Brooks’ theories on muscle performance in the recently deceased. And when he analyzes a machete for practical uses, it’s more about turning screws than slicing through the rotting neck tendons of an undead assailant. The 46-year-old father and Vegas native founded the wildly popular Zombie Apocalypse Store, but he admits he’s still a rookie when it comes to the Z word. Survival he knows, and his desert outpost is “a delicate dance between fun and function.” Just make sure the fun doesn’t nibble.

Your business once focused on artificial grass. The recession pushed you to diversify, but zombie apocalypse survival gear? I was thinking a survival store makes sense. How do we really make a survival store make sense? How do we not just be like anybody else? I had the name in mind, but I didn’t say anything, and I asked my 14-year-old son Michael, “What do you think we should name the store?” He says, “I think you should call it the Zombie Apocalypse Store.” … It didn’t take but a couple days. We got a sign up and said, "We’re gonna run with this."

Were you already into zombies or were you just watching the trend, which also refuses to die? There’s a huge subculture of zombie people out there that I had no idea about, and I certainly wasn’t one of them. … They tend to be pretty well versed on what’s happening, and they know what they’re really preparing for.

Ah, the zombie metaphor. Your zombie could be anything. Some people are super concerned about climate change. That could be their zombie, and all that means is, what are you preparing for? It all boils down to: If you’re prepared for a zombie attack, in most areas, you’re pretty much prepared for anything.

So, despite some of the fantastical things you carry at the store, it’s really about serious preparation. It’s a delicate dance between fun and function. So you’ve got to have the function. It’s got to be good stuff; it can’t be token pocketknives and penny candy that, yeah, you could survive on. It’s got to be decent stuff that you absolutely could survive on. But it’s got to be the fun, too. People who won’t prepare for an earthquake or for whatever government takeover or meteorites hitting the Earth ... people who won’t prepare for that will prepare for a zombie attack.

Whatever your zombie is, what knife are you bringing to the fight? I like the rustic ones. I like the cheaper, heavier-type knife that you can use as a screwdriver. You can use it as a hammer; you can certainly use it as a chopping tool or a cutting tool. So, more multipurpose, but it’s not a $500 knife that if you break the tip off on a screw you’re gonna really be upset.

What zombie movies do you recommend? Get "Fido." It’s [set] in the ’50s, and basically the zombies are the pets and kind of the slaves of society, but outside of the fences of this idyllic ’50s society is the wild zone. … It’s probably one of my more favorite movies, not just in the zombie genre.

You sell weapons, food, all kinds of survival gear and zombie novelties. You’ve even got a BB gun range where you can customize T-shirts with fake blood. It’s unique, but I’m surprised I haven’t seen a store like this. You haven’t seen one before, but you’re going to be seeing them soon, and I think we’re going to be leading the charge on that. We’re already looking at, immediately, a second location in a major city.

You’re also an inventor. Are you still inventing on the side, maybe something having to do with whacking the undead? I think everybody’s always inventing. They think of new things and go, "Wow, that would be cool," but most people stop there. … I will give you a billion-dollar idea, and I’ll give it to you for nothing. All you need to do is create a machine that people step into and it takes their atoms apart and relocates them anywhere on the planet that you want. There you go. There’s a billion-dollar idea, and what’s it worth? Nothing. Until you do it.

Until you solve that dilemma of physics, the zombie fun should keep you busy. Even the CDC has a zombie apocalypse page. I just got a new bumper sticker, and it’s become one of our best sellers. It says: “Deep inside we all want a zombie apocalypse.” It’s self-perpetuating because you can fantasize about it as you’re really preparing and putting away stuff that really, really makes sense. … You’re preparing for zombies, you’re weird. But if there’s an earthquake, you’re eating.

This story first appeared in Sun sister publication Las Vegas Weekly.
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