As I'm sure you heard, Fantastic Four #587 came out this week and, depending on what comic shop you could get to, it was available on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Which day depended on whether or not the shop was a member of ComicsPRO; members could sell the book a day earlier than usual. So, being as I was called on to write a few pieces about the issue, I made it a point to get my copy as early as possible. The nearest retailer who was also a ComicsPRO member for me was Up Up and Away Comics, a shop I had heard of but was just out of the way enough that I'd never been there before.
I couldn't get there until after work, so it was only an hour or so before closing when I walked it. A woman towards the back of the store racking new comics looked up and offered a warm greeting; the only other person visible was a rather scruffy looking (intentionally so) 20-something flipping through what I would later discover were the dollar bins. I was rather taken aback by how bright and clean and cheerful the store looked, in part in comparison to some of the cold, dark, snowy days we've had around here lately. But the store layout immediately seemed pretty open and inviting, probably the most inviting comic shop I've personally been in.
The back wall has new comics. You could make a B line straight back pretty quickly if you just wanted to grab new books on your lunch hour or something. On the immediate left as you walk in is the main counter and cash register. The rest of the store was divided into smaller sections. No real displays higher than three or four feet (aside from the exterior walls) so you always had a clear view of the entire store. This helped add to that sense of openness.
Starting at the back of the store, in front and to the right of the new books, were long boxes of older comics. Maybe 40 or 50 boxes at browsing level, and another 40 or 50 below. They were all of the classic bleached cardboard variety, but they were all newer and in good condition. Plastic divider cards poked up highlighting where titles began. (Just a straight alphabetical ordering.) I only looked through a couple boxes briefly, but they seemed like mostly Bronze and late Silver Age.
In front of those were several stand-alone bookcases. Mix of hardcovers and paperbacks. DC separated from Marvel separated from everything else. The selection was surprisingly broad, though not especially deep. They had a lot of different characters and books represented, even in the indie stuff, but not a lot of any one character. That had a few TPBs of Transmetropolitan but not all of them. Same with Hellboy and Captain America. A couple of the bookcase did have character spotlights (just Batman books, or just Spider-Man, or whomever) and those ran a little deeper. I suspect the intent was to provide some interest to as many types of stories as possible, and then putting orders in for other books once an individual expressed interest in something.
One interesting (and, I thought, positive) thing was that ALL of their books were shrink-wrapped. Though that does prevent you from flipping through a book's contents, it ALSO prevents everyone else from doing the same -- meaning that you can walk out of the store with a book that's in excellent condition and hasn't been thumbed through a dozen times over. I discovered later that the paperbacks also had a piece of paperboard wrapped in them for sturdiness, and all the books included a Up Up and Away bookmark.
The front portion of the store carries manga, action figures and gaming materials. Not a lot of figures, but plenty of gaming and a decent collection of manga. (Which followed the same pattern as the books -- broad but not deep.) And even better, I scored a copy of Planetes #4 (Book 1) which I have been trying to track down for ages! Well, I've been trying to track down a copy for less than $40 for ages! The were a handful more long boxes over here with a dollar bin selection as well.
At some point, probably FAR later than I should have, I saw that they have a large, flat screen TV mounted on one wall. But rather than running some bad action flick or a superhero-themed movie or something, they had a slideshow highlighting all the new releases, one at a time. Title, cover image, solicitation blurb and creators. Not an elaborate presentation, but smooth and nicely done.
Owner/manager Kendall Swafford came out from the back while I was browsing. He was doing some touch-ups to the actual store in the back corner. We didn't chat much, but he seemed like an affable guy, cheerfully asking if I was looking for anything in particular, jokingly suggesting I give the ladder on a good shake if I needed help.
Browsing their website afterwards, I notice they currently have a frequent shopper card. If I'm reading it correctly, for spending $250 at the store during a six month period (and getting your card punched accordingly) you receive a $50 gift certificate for the store. I know that when I was hitting my LCS every Wednesday, I would hit that $250 in less than three months, so that definitely sounds like a great deal to me!
The store bills itself (at least on their bookmarks) as the "World's Greatest Comic Book Store!" Some of the pages on their site announce "Welcome to your new favorite store!" Possibly a bit of marketing hyperbole involved, but it's not entirely unwarranted. I was summarily impressed with my visit, and wish the store were close enough to warrant more frequent trips.
I like visiting different comic shops, in part, because they all have different stock and I might find new/different/rare books. But more and more lately, I've liked visiting to see how they run their business. And, more to the point, how they run their business differently than other comic shops. Up Up and Away is a great example of a comic shop doing a lot of things right. (I only don't say "everything" because I haven't seen everything they're doing. I certainly see them doing anything wrong.) The shop felt very friendly and inviting, it was very clean (even with the work in the corner and racking new books!) and they had a good selection of stock. There were only a couple things I might suggest to make it my ideal shop, but I suspect that those might not work for what I would guess is most of their clientele. All in all, it was an excellent store and I highly recommend a visit if you're in the Cincinnati area.
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