Comic Book Shops

By | Sunday, February 26, 2006 Leave a Comment
I've had the priveledge to browse through many comic book shops throughout my life, and I've been fortunate enough to find two very good stores that I have been able to call "mine." (As in, "I went to my local shop on Wednesday," not "I own a comic book shop.") I used to go to Queen City Comics until I changed jobs a few years ago, and it became somewhat difficult to keep going there regularly, so I had to switch to Bookery Fantasy. Both are excellent examples of how comic shops should be.

So what makes them good shops? And why do I enjoy them?

First, they both have a fairly good selection of books. Not just new issues, but rather healthy back issue collections as well. And not just Marvel and DC, but I've been able to pick up and sample some fairly out-of-the-mainstream titles as well. A decent portion of the books I currently get, in fact, are because I was able to sample them in the store itself. And the managers at both locations know their stock well, so if I am expecting to see something on the rack and don't, they're usually able to tell me whether it's sold out already or wasn't shipped on time or whatever.

Store layouts are always a little awkward, as the manager has to work with whatever space he can, but at both Bookery and Queen City, they have a relatively open sense of space, despite the density of long boxes running throughout the area. I've been in too many shops that would make anyone feel claustrophobic. There was one shop I visited (now long out of business) that felt smaller than my college dorm room, and it was literally packed floor-to-ceiling with long boxes, which were almost impossible to look through because they were packed so tightly. Now, maybe he couldn't afford a larger space, but filling the shop with every last comic you own to the point where you can't even look at them seems a worse idea to me than making a nice place with a smaller selection of back issues.

The staffs at both locations are courteous and helpful. The reason why The Simpson's Comic Shop Guy gets so many laughs is precisely because we've all run into variations of that same person. They're so absorbed by the fiction they read, that they don't think to try not alienating customers. Even though the owners are/were often fans first and foremost, running a comic book shop is a business and you have to keep your customers happy if you're going to remain in business. I've run into several of them at locations other than the comic shop, and they've remained cheerful and pleasant.

I don't have all the secrets to running a comic book shop. It doesn't strike me as a good way to make a lot of money, and I really don't think I'm going to try it myself any time in my future. But I do know some things that strike me as relatively key factors in the success or failure of a shop, and it surprises me how many shops don't seem to have any clue about any of them.
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