Four Letter Nerd

Why I Closed a Comic Book Store

Someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money.

Remember that, because I’m going to come back to it.

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t have a comic book within 10 feet of me. I wrote in them with markers. I took them to school in my backpack. I met Stan Lee when I was 12. My two children are named from comic book super heroes. For the last 7 years, I’ve helped manage one of the country’s largest online comic book collecting websites (ComicCollectorLive.com) and I’ve attended comic conventions from San Diego to New York City to Toronto as attendee, exhibitor and professional. With a little research, you fill find my name in both the letter columns and credits of your favorite comic books. But there’s many of you out there who will never meet me or know who I am. So allow me to introduce myself:

I’m the reason you and your children are wearing SPIDER-MAN t-shirts, SUPERMAN Converses and watching MARVEL movies on Netflix.

I am the comic book retailer.

Or at least I was.

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In the middle of the entire print vs digital debate which has raged through the comic industry for several years, our website ComicCollectorLive.com, which offers collecting software, manages comic book sales online and has tens of thousands of members, took a strange direction. While many sellers took all their sales online, went digital and closed up shop, we took our website property and leveraged a brick and mortar store to compliment our website 14 months ago.

It was a bold move. ComicCollectorLive.com has been around for years and has enjoyed a modicum of success within the industry. Oh sure, we had a selection of exclusive variants that we sold at conventions or gave away to our members as gifts if they popped in for the last few years, but this was going to be a stretch. The idea was to help promote and drive customers to the website locally while at the same time giving our membership that stopped by every now and then just to say hi a place to drop a few bucks and all the while, we honored the industry we love.

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And so it was that Comic Collector Live: The Store was born. We secured an account with Diamond Distribution and opened just before HALLOWEEN COMICFEST 2013 to slow to average sales, but with the long term goal of making something really unique that comic collectors and their kids can enjoy for years to come.

Now remember, all this time, someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money.

I remember the next 6 months was a real struggle. I busted my ass to ensure that the shop was clean and well-stocked. I worked extra hours on the weekend. I budgeted and managed financial expectations for the store down to the last dime. I created a kids’ section of the shop that kids and parents enjoyed. If any of you reading this ever attended a DIAMOND RETAILER SUMMIT, I was the guy in the meeting room taking feverish notes on how to run a successful comic book store. I worked more within the community to promote the store, working with school libraries and preschools. If the word “comic book” was spoken in this city, I wanted “Comic Collector Live” to be spoken in the same sentence with it. And as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I watched most of the money going directly back into the store. And I often wondered if it was all worth it.

Then around April 2014 (specifically FREE COMIC BOOK DAY), something wonderful happened.

We started to get more customers. A lot of them. Maybe it was the guy who just came in every couple months to see if we had anything new. Maybe it was the mom who drove by with kids pointing fingers asking if they could see what was in the building with the HULK standee in the window. Maybe it was the guys with the comic book news website that saw that we loved comics as much as they do (A wink and a nod to 4LN). But for whatever reason, these people become regulars and signing up to get all their comics through us. It wasn’t a home run by any stretch….more like a bunt to fake a base hit to first….but it was enough to give me hope that this store might actually stick it out long enough to survive the first year. By summer 2014, I was convinced that the shop was going to be around for a while and maybe, just maybe be able to (“GASP!”) start putting money in savings. While still relatively small in number, our customer base is and was loyal. I enjoyed many awesome moments, not the least of which was joining our local community Literacy Council.

Jacob Rougemont

Jacob Rougemont

Now keep in mind that all this time, there’s a website with tens of thousands of members that also needs love and attention sitting off to the side. It had been years…literally years…since the site has been updated and, despite all our best intentions and hopes, it hasn’t been done.

And for those of you who have ever seen STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, you know what’s more important than the needs of the few.

The good news is that ComicCollectorLive.com is on the fast track to a much needed facelift and will continue to help bring buyers and sellers together. Technology has changed A LOT in the last 7 years and the website will be leaps and bounds better than what it is. But in order to give the website property the attention it needs, Comic Collector Live: The Store has to go and its’ last day of business will be January 31st, 2015.

And it’s literally as simply as that.

It’s a bittersweet moment. Probably not unlike the feeling when LEGO realized that while, yes, a clothing line is awesome, you stick with what you do best and that’s building bricks. And that’s my conundrum. In doing my job these last 7 years, it comes at the cost of doing something I’m also good at….selling comics…even though technically, I’m still doing it by helping manage this incredible website with incredible members and incredible potential.

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To my good friends at 4LN, who have been supporters of CCL: THE STORE: I’m not really going anywhere and we’ll continue to see each other, albeit under different circumstances. I’ll simply give you guys this piece of advice: do what you love and you’ll always be successful. I appreciate the dedication and attention you’ve given our little shop and it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your families. You each have something to contribute and are the closest thing to THE AVENGERS I’ll ever meet in real life. I look forward to your continued friendship.

To the customers, friends and friends I’ve come to call family these last 16 months in our shop: I want to personally thank you for allowing me to serve you and keep your passion for this business alive. We must have made an impact in your lives due to the large number of well-wishes and supportive words (and even invites to dinner) I’ve received in the last 72 hours. Today, I find that 4LN has written a eulogy column mourning the death of our brick and mortar store and a customer today informed me that because of the store, we’ve inspired her to write her own comic book.

Wow.

To say I’m moved by these gestures would be an incredible understatement. Believe me: it would be a lot easier if I could tell you that our little shop was closing because it failed financially.

But it isn’t.

It’s closing because we have an obligation and a love for this industry that goes beyond what we were currently doing. And strangely enough, it goes deeper than that for me. Remember when I told you that someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money? I used to think this was just something that comic professionals tell each other in order to show they love comics more than you do. But then I realized something. They were absolutely right. If I make money doing what I love, all the better, but in the end I honestly want to be the reason EVERYONE loves comics. You, your kids and your kids’ kids.

So in order to do that, I have to look beyond what I have and forward to what Comic Collector Live can become and achieve.

And the irony is: if I ever do make money in this business, I’ll probably just spend it on more comics.

 

 

 

*Steve Boyd is Vice President of the Board of Directors for Goloco Media Group, Inc’s E-Commerce Division, a member of the Board of Directors for the Literacy Council of Middle Tennessee, Manager of Comic Collector Live: The Store, co-creator of WalkingTheWalkingDead.com, co-host of the WTWD podcast and has most recently contributed to 2 projects for Marvel Comics. He also knows every word to the “McDonald’s Menu Song”. While his office will remain at the same location in Hendersonville Tennessee, the storefront closes on January 31st.

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