When I buy new comics, I go to Krum’s World, a great comics store in Winter Garden, Florida. I’m there a lot, and sometimes discussion about the industry breaks out–especially if I’m not in a hurry!
Recently, I was taken with what one person said during our time there. He told us he wanted his family to experience what a “real” comic shop is.
A ‘REAL’ COMICS SHOP?
I had to ask him just what he meant by that. He turned around and pointed at the large number of people in the store. Some were browsing, but a lot of them were talking about comics with each other – sharing which ones they liked, which comics they didn’t know about but wanted to learn more. In general, friendships were establishing or being formed that revolved around comics.
The owners were interacting with new people who came in the door as well as asking if anyone needed help. If a person wanted a poster on the wall, they would put his or her name on it so they could take it home for free when it was time to change posters. They had boxes for customers to put their subscribed comics in, and kept them for as long as they could.
Everyone was smiling. It was as close to a family experience as I’ve seen in a business.
“That’s what I mean,” he told us. “My children haven’t experienced this as much as I would like.”
I have to agree!
THE ‘LIBRARY’ STORE
This reminded me of an old ad that DC Comics had put out. Lobo was saying, “This ain’t no liberry, fan boy!” What that meant was, Don’t just read the comics! BUY something!
However, I’ve always been surprised by how many comics shops actually WANT that experience. I’ve been in stores where you walk in, go to the rack, pick out your books, pay for them (of course!), then leave. Maybe a word or two of thanks as they interrupt the conversation they’re having behind the counter, but that was it. It was like being in a library. You know, SHHHHH! We wouldn’t want anyone talking about comics in here! I often see this happening in “chain” stores.
THE ‘SILENT TREATMENT’ STORE
I’ve mentioned previously in the column about a store in the Washington, DC, area where I went in with friends, saw the person running the shop behind the counter doing something on the computer. He didn’t say anything to anyone the entire time we were there.
He had plenty of comics and graphic novels, but I knew the ones I already had. The others I had no idea about, so I wasn’t about to spend money on something I wasn’t sure I would like.
You know, he never looked away from the computer screen the entire time, either. I felt like we were intruding on his computer time! I won’t go back there, that’s for sure!
THE ‘BRING A CHAIR AND HAVE A SEAT’ STORE
There is the opposite kind of store, and I’ve been in them, too.
One store, the moment the doors opened on New Comic Book Day, a “customer” came in the door, carrying his own chair. He spent the entire day there, sitting on that chair and never lacked for things to say… even when the clerk was helping actual customers buy things.
When it was time to close up, he’d pick up his chair and head out the door, promising to be back next week. He never bought a thing there, but he loved to talk comics by the hour.
WHAT MAKES UP THE REAL THING
The best stores strike a good balance between customer interaction and business. No shop can last if people only come there to sit all day, but a friendly smile and a knowledgeable answer can make a HUGE difference.
I always appreciate a person who asks me what I like, or who takes the time to look over what I choose to buy in order to make relevant suggestions.
There are many of these I’ve been happy to go to, but the one that stands out most is a place called Comics on the Green in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Dave Romeo, Jr., the owner, really knows his stuff, is very funny and glib, and makes the best suggestions!
I’ve talked previously about the time I was in his store with extra money to spend, so I asked him to suggest a comic. He said, The Walking Dead. I laughed – a black and white zombie book? Come on! I bought them on his recommendation, and I’ve been a fan ever since!
That’s the kind of store I enjoy!
One last story – I happened to be there one time when a guy walked in with a box of comics he wanted to sell Dave. He admitted, though, that he didn’t know how much he should expect to get for them. A few minutes later, he was walking out the door with a Buyer’s Guide. Dave hadn’t bought a thing, but instead had sold the guy a book that he was already happily starting to read. Now he’s a salesman, all right!
THERE ARE OTHER KINDS
I’ve been to the other stores that are tough to interact with, like the one with the clique of friends sitting near the front who talk with the owner constantly so I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Or the one that had a huge gaming layout in the center of the store, with comics on racks around it. When I tried to buy a book, the owner told me to wait until his turn was over. Sure thing!
Then there’s the store in which the clerk smokes. I was once going to buy a Peanuts Snoopy toy until I noticed the poor dog’s head was yellow from the cigarette smoke that had seeped into it! Ewww!
We all likely have comic shops horror stories, but we all know the great ones, too!