In the heart of Times Square, bright LED billboards draw the attention of people, both young and old, milling around the bustling junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Reeling across the vibrant screens are cute and delightful animations of different creatures with names like Cony, Brown, and Sally—all part of the LINE Friends cast. At the prime location of 1515 Broadway, LINE Friends hosted a pre-opening event for its NYC flagship store on July 21st, 2017, marking it as the first large-scale Asian character brand store to open in the United States.

Inside the LINE Friends store.
L-R: James, Brown, and Cony are three of four original LINE characters created in 2011.

This isn’t the first time LINE Friends merchandise appeared in New York City. Back in 2015 a LINE Friends pop-up retail store briefly made an appearance in Times Square, though it was not nearly as large as the current 4,628-square-foot space. Inside the new LINE Friends Shop, there is an abundance of merchandise. With plushies, mobile accessories, stationery, and apparel lining the walls up to the ceiling, it’s easy to get lost in the endless array of merchandise. If you’re a fan of the LINE Friends characters (like I am!), then you’ll definitely enjoy a shopping trip here. And even if you don’t know about LINE Friends, you’ll surely have fun visiting their world of adorable props and colorful decorations. If you happen to purchase something, not only do you leave with your LINE Friends products, but you might also be pleasantly surprised with promotional items. When I visited, customers are gifted with free plastic character fans with a purchase of $30.00 or more. Also available exclusively to the New York store are products that have the “LINE Friends NY” print on them (e.g. plush dolls, tote bags, water bottles, etc.), which proved extremely popular with customers from out of state.

New York-exclusive plush Cony.
Brown and Cony dolls dressed in different Asian cultural attire.
Apparel lining the walls of the LINE Friends store.

Needless to say, LINE Friends offers more than just merchandise! Winding through the sea of local customers and sightseers, there are so many opportunity for photos and selfies as statues, giant plush figures, and LINE-themed installations and rooms are located throughout the store. Venture deeper into the store, and you’ll find Choco House, where more products and photo ops are found. Guided by LINE Friends staff members, everyone lined up in an orderly manner to wait for a picture with their favorite characters, the most popular prop (and perhaps the highlight of the LINE Friends New York) being a giant plush of Brown the bear, endearingly called “Mega Brown” by locals. Every now and then, staff members would brush the bear to prepare it for pictures with hundreds of thousands of tourists each day. The towering yet soft plush greeted customers at the store entrance and was met with much love as children and adults hugged the Mega Brown and struck creative poses for a picture with it.

My sister (R) and me (L) with Choco in Choco House.
L-R: Taking pictures with Brown, Mega Brown at the store entrance, and Sally and Choco in front of the Choco House installation.

About LINE Friends:

First created as stickers characters in 2011, LINE Friends characters have quickly become recognized as a character brand for the LINE mobile messenger application. The app has become increasingly popular, especially in Asia, and boasts approximately 220 million active users across the globe. The ubiquitous faces of LINE Friends extend beyond the virtual world, as they appear in cafes, app games, hotels, theme parks, and over 5,000 products. LINE Friends has also collaborated with other global brands such as UNIQLO, Samsung, Moleskin, and Swarovski as well as organizations like UNICEF. There are eleven main characters in the LINE Friends cast including Choco, Cony, Sally, Moon, James, and Leonardo, to name only a few. Who’s your favorite LINE Friends character?

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Catherine Nguyen
Catherine Nguyen is a full-time university student with a diverse range of interests. She holds a B.M. (summa cum laude and King O’Neal Scholar) in Piano Performance with a minor in Sociology from the University of South Florida and is currently attending CUNY Hunter College. Her writings in sociology explore nepantilism and double-consciousness in the Asian and Asian American identity and the intersectionality of oppressive forces that affect Asians in Western social institutions. Aside from academics, Catherine has some experience as a graphic artist designing promotional material for programs and recitals. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and watching anime. When not in class, Catherine is always listening to music—from classical to K-pop!