A good local comic book shop is worth a thousand mint Detective Comics #27. At least, I think so.
We’ve all had varying experiences with comic retailers but one thing’s for sure, you know a bad one when you see it. And man, do they make me angry, especially when I know some good ones. I’m fortunate enough to not have come across too many of the bad ones in my travels and I certainly haven’t become a repeat customer at any of them, yet still they stand. And I can only think it’s because their customers don’t know they can do better. Trust me. You can.
There’s any number of reasons comic shops can go or be bad but in my opinion there’s no excuse. If you are a business owner, never mind one in a struggling industry, you should be doing your damndest to bring in all the customers you can and you certainly shouldn’t be doing anything that would drive them away. But, oddly enough, I hear stories of this happening every day. Shops where one customer is ignored for the sake of another based on looks, shops with an adult section sitting across from the children’s comics, shops who won’t double bag your books when it’s raining out. “Wait a second,” you’re thinking, “That last one sounds a little out of place.” Well, you’d be right but that’s exactly when I knew I had struck comic shop gold.
I love my comic shop. From the moment I stepped into their store I was greeted by friendly staff who asked me if I needed help finding anything. There was no assumption about who I was, how long I had been reading comics or if I even read comics at all, and there was certainly no pressure. I was an individual with the potential to spend my money there and that’s what every business owner is looking for. Every aspect of my first visit there was a pleasant one and it wasn’t long before I set up a pull list with them.
I’ve spent the last few years becoming friends with the shop’s owners, a husband and wife team, and their staff. We’ve shared industry stories, chatted about the latest storylines and learned a bit about each other’s lives at the same time. They’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty on more than one occasion and constantly prove just how wonderful a comic shop can be when you find the right one. There’s just one problem.
When I made the decision of where I’d be moving to, one of the first thoughts I had was of my comic shop. I knew I would always patronize their store but I also knew I could no longer make it a regular weekly visit because of the distance involved. I can’t even begin to tell you how torn up I was over it. I had discussions with friends about it and how sad it made me. It wasn’t just the change in my normal routine, it was that I was leaving a place I truly loved going to. Sure, every few weeks I would cringe at my total at their cash register but I as more than happy to be spending my money in a shop that deserved the business. I even had a stressful dilemma about actually telling them I’d have to stop my pull list. I chickened out and emailed them for fear of welling up in the middle of the store.
Lots of comic shops were doing special incentives for the DC relaunch a few months ago and my shop was one of them. I had put in my order early and got a gift card once they were all purchased. Some of my Twitter followers were telling me I should go for deals that certain other stores were doing and my answer was, “no thanks, I’m loyal to my shop.” One of the owners thanked me for that comment afterwards. It was a simple “thank you” but it went a long way in reminding me just why I go there.
So, how happy are you with your store? It may not be the same if you’re not a weekly customer but can you express the kind of joy I do about my shop? If not, perhaps it’s time for a change. I know comics shops are few and far between in some areas so it may be a case of take what you can get but make sure that when you do find a store you love you remain loyal to them as much as possible. And if you don’t already have a shop, check out the Comic Shop Locator to find one in your area. And retailers, if you can’t call a few of your customers friends, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate how you do things.
My dilemma of course is, where do I go from here? I thought about going digital just so I didn’t have to try and find a new store I’d be happy with but not all the books I read are available digitally yet and frankly I still don’t like reading comics on my computer. So even though I’m in the market for a new store to frequent I know I’ll never find another quite like Little Shop of Comics in New Jersey. If you live in the area or are visiting, do me a favor and stop by. You won’t regret it. I’ve already said all of this to them before but thank you for giving me a great few years of shopping and talking about comics and much like the Terminator, I’ll be back.