Hopefully, there’s a comic book store in your town. You step through the doors every week to get your new books and chat with the people working there. You talk about what’s on the shelves, what you like, what you don’t. You leave behind the worries of work, the bills, and relationships and disappear into another reality. Heroes. Villains, Nine panel grids. To you customers, we’re an alternate reality. An escape. To us retailers, the alternate reality exists outside our doors, not in.
Our reality is inventory management, reordering, alphabetizing, managing spreadsheets, employees and of course, taking care of our customers. Sure, it’s an exciting and fun life choice, but as with all retail environments, it’s still a business. At the end of our workday, we don’t just talk about the stories, artists, comic and movie news. Most of the time, we talk about you. Who came in today? What did you buy? What did you enjoy (and not enjoy) about our books, our toys and our shop. Most of our conversation doesn’t revolve around comic book stories. They revolve around yours.
The guys and gals that stand behind the counters all day, working the register and spending time with you are in this business not just because they love the four color world of comics, but because they love people. Sure, some retailers don’t act as if they do. Many seem downright uncomfortable chatting with you. Strangely unaware of your presence. Doesn’t mean they don’t take stock of who walked in the door, what you talked about and what you purchased.
Comic retailers are very much like bartenders. We see you come in week after week. We wait to hear what’s going on with you. We watch as your life develops. Did you change jobs? Break up with your boyfriend? Lose a loved one? Our job isn’t just to sell you the latest copy of this, the new release of that. At the end of the day, the most important aspect of our job is to listen. To respect and empathize with the intimacies of your lives.
Over the years, I’ve heard endless fascinating personal stories. Hundreds per square inch of my shop. Hilarious, offbeat, sad. Personal biographies of children, lovers, parents and friends.
Very often, what happens in your life reflects what you read. An important part of my job is to marry what you feel to the books you might enjoy. Feeling on top of the world because you got that lucrative account you were after for months? How about some action and adventure to celebrate it? Feeling a little blue because money’s tight and prospects are slim? How about some comedy to cheer you up? Fallen in love? How about some romance to keep that feeling alive?
We don’t just sell you stories. We sell you stories that complement your lives.
I’d like to visit some of those stories in this column. Hopefully, they’ll be as interesting to you as they are to me. They make up what’s best about what I’ve chosen to spend my life doing. Which is to say, you make up what’s best about that choice. Our stores are not ours alone. They belong to you as well. The best feeling in the world for us retailers is when our business reaches a stage where our shop begins to take on a life of its own. When our customers no longer see it as “John’s store,” “Mary’s store,” “Bill’s store.” When they start seeing it as “their store,” joining us in the ownership of those shelves, that window display, those exciting Wednesday mornings.
For all of you who come to our stores and experience this with us, this column will be my way of saying “thanks.” And, for all of you out there who choose to spend your time at home on the internet. For those who shop only online and can’t bring themselves to step foot into the local shop anymore. For those of you who believe brick and mortar comic book stores are a thing of the past, maybe you’ll read these columns every now and then and decide to step foot through our doors and feel what it’s like to be a kid again. To recall those days when we didn’t just email one another from the privacy of our homes, but met on the corner and rode our bikes to the “comic book store” where we talked and laughed and lost ourselves in the wonder of stories.
Jud Meyers is the co-founder and co-proprietor of Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks, California, the 2007 winner of the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. Visit them online at www.earth2comics.com.
ReTales runs every other Thursday afternoon, here on CBR.