Monday, December 4, 2017

My Life With Comic Books Part # 208



A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.
The Current Cast of Characters:
Paul Howley: age 48
Mal Howley: age 49
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #208

   The summer of 2002 went by far too fast as we were getting ready for our daughter to head off to college in West Palm Beach, Florida and we were preparing for our big move from New Hampshire to Jupiter, Florida. Our purchase of the home went quite smoothly as it was professionally handled by our real estate agent, Grace Noble.
   I arranged to have all of the utilities turned on as soon as the house in Florida was purchased by us because air conditioning needed to be kept on at all times, especially during the hot and humid Florida summer, so that no mold would develop inside the house. Along with hiring a local company to take care of the pool, we continued to contract with the previous owner’s landscaper to maintain the lawn and yard until we got down there later in the summer.
   Ken, the manager of my comic book and collectible stores, had everything under control so I had no fears about moving so far away. He could handle any problems that might arise and if he needed my input on anything, we’d try to resolve things by phone. Still, it was a big decision to move over 1400 miles away!
   All of our furniture and boxes of stuff were packed into a rented storage area waiting to be moved to Florida. I wanted to hire a professional company to move all of this stuff to our Florida home since it was such a long distance away from New Hampshire. I had seen advertisements for a moving company called “Ray’s Moving and Storage” and since they claimed that they specialized in moves from New Hampshire to Florida, I thought I’d get an estimate from them for the move. The company sent a representative to my storage area to work up the price for the move. While they measured the furniture and boxes, I mentioned that about a hundred of the boxes contained books and record albums. Lots of heavy items. A few days later they gave me the price quote and although it seemed like a lot of money, I agreed to hire them to move my stuff.
   We had a very special group of close friends in New Hampshire and moving away from them was going to be difficult and life-changing. These were people we truly loved and who loved us in return! Nearly every week, we spent three or four days a week with them. We played cards, we ate lots of food, we vacationed with them, we ate lots of food, we raised our kids together, and did I mention that we ate a lot of food? We planned to come back up to stay at our cottage in Alton Bay, New Hampshire each summer so we’d have at least two or three months each year with our group of friends. Even so, although we were excited to begin our new life in south Florida, we knew we’d miss them all. It was an emotional “goodbye.”
   Mal and I owned two cars; a Toyota Camry and a small Eclipse Spyder. Our daughter, Cassandra, owned a large Toyota Highlander. We needed to get all three cars down to our new home in Florida but we didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of either Mal or Cassandra driving a car alone. My sister Sharon, always up for something different, along with her youngest son Jake, offered to drive one of the cars to Florida. We decided to leave our Eclipse Spyder parked at our cottage in Alton Bay, NH and we’d try to figure out how to get it down to Florida sometime in the future. We packed the other two cars up with valuable collectibles and items that had important sentimental value and got ready to make the trip to Jupiter, Florida.
   Before we left, we got a phone call from the owner of Ray’s Moving Company. He explained that once his truck was fully loaded with our stuff, he found that weight was significantly higher than he had estimated and we’d now be charged an additional $1900.00. I questioned his professionalism and honesty because in my opinion, he should have done a better job in calculating the actual weight of all my boxes. He had full access to everything I owned in the storage area and it shouldn’t be my fault that he underestimated the weight. I told him I thought he deliberately underestimated the weight in order to give me a lower price for the move so I wouldn’t consider any of the other moving companies. He refused to honor the price quote he gave me and insinuated that if I wanted my stuff, I’d need to pay him the full amount he now demanded. I felt I had no choice but to pay him. He controlled the situation because he had possession of nearly everything I owned.
   With all of the details seemingly taken care of, we began the twenty-six hour drive to Florida.
   Epilog: A year later, while I was working as a volunteer at our Alton Bay neighborhood snack bar, the owner of Ray’s Moving Company came to buy a cheeseburger. After I cooked it for him I told him that I had originally estimated the price of the cheeseburger at $2.50 but for him, the price is $8.00. He didn’t understand my point but I got a chuckle out of it.

Next Chapter: The Florida Adventure Begins.

  
  
  


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Life With Comic Books Part # 207









A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.
The Current Cast of Characters:
Paul Howley: age 48
Mal Howley: age 48
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #207

   As our planned house-hunting time in south Florida was nearing its end, even though we had visited dozens of interesting homes, we hadn’t found a house that we were ready to buy. Mal and I carefully reviewed the listing information sheets of many of the homes one night and then, with no decision made, we went to sleep. The next morning, Mal told me that she had prayed for some insight and when she woke up she felt that she wanted to go back to see the property with the guest-house.

   Grace Noble, our real estate agent, dutifully took us back there. As we remembered, the house wasn’t very dynamic looking but it could meet our needs. It had a nice lot of nearly two and a half acres including lots of tropical south Florida vegetation that created a nice wall of privacy between the house and the neighboring homes. The completely screened-in swimming pool was a nice full-sized pool (not the usual small suburban Florida pools we had seen in our house hunting). The house was one of only five homes on a private unpaved road and it was conveniently located within walking distance to a shopping plaza that contained a grocery store, restaurants, a bank, a video rental store, a cell-phone store, and a full-service mobile Post Office van. At first, we were a bit concerned that this shopping plaza might be too close by but there were enough trees to completely block the plaza from view. The guest house was the biggest “negative” thing about the property for us. We certainly didn’t need this extra space and the property “asking price” reflected the inclusion of this guest-house.

   The owners had listed the home for sale at $529,000.00. The property had only been on the market for eleven days and the real estate market in south Florida was pretty strong at that time. We decided to make an offer of $464,300.00 for the property and we were actually shocked when the owners accepted our offer. The only contingency would be a satisfactory home inspection. Normally, I don’t hire home inspectors because I’m pretty good at spotting potential problems but since Florida is quite different from any other area I’ve lived in before, especially because of the potential for termite infestations, I hired a professional. The report came back indicating that things looked pretty good. We were feeling confident that this was the right property for us to buy.

   We had a couple of days left before had to drive back to New Hampshire and we had a lot of little details that needed to be completed to ensure that the home purchase would smoothly move forward. One issue was obtaining home-owner’s insurance. I assumed this would just take a quick phone call to a local insurance agent and I was surprised when I was informed that no insurance company would be interested in selling me insurance on the property because it was considered to be in a “hurricane-zone.”  The property was only six miles from the ocean, and even though there hadn’t been a hurricane in Jupiter, Florida in over forty years, the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in south Florida was still too much for insurance companies to overlook the possibility of another hurricane hitting Florida. We called our real estate agent and told her that we obviously couldn’t buy the property if we couldn’t get insurance on it. She called the sellers and they called their insurance company and convinced them to offer us an insurance policy on the home. Instead of the $500 per year that we were accustomed to pay for an annual insurance premium, this policy was over $6000 per year with an $8000 wind-related deductible! We wanted the property enough so we purchased the insurance and set everything in motion to buy the place. Grace would get everything taken care of and we could complete the transaction through the mail since we needed to get back to New Hampshire now.

   Next chapter: The summer seems short as we prepare to leave our amazing friends.

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Life With Comic Books Part # 206



A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.

The Current Cast of Characters:

Paul Howley: age 48

Mal Howley: age 48

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #206

 

   Once Cassandra’s high school graduation and graduation party were done, Mal and I packed our suitcases and planned to drive to Florida to try to find a place to live that was about a half-hour away from Cassy’s chosen college, Palm Beach Atlantic University. I had hoped that a big move away from everything that reminded us of Adam might help ease the sadness of losing him.

  

   I had done some Internet searching for suitable homes and I was surprised at how reasonable parts of south Florida seemed to be. We didn’t want to spend a lot on a Florida home because we still owned our home in Alton Bay and we wanted to be able to keep it so we could spend summers in New Hampshire with our friends and relatives.

  

   After contacting our excellent Realtor, Judy McShane, she connected us with Grace Noble, a real estate agent located in Jupiter, Florida. We explained to Grace that we had no idea what kind of house we were looking for nor how much we wanted to spend. Driving us around Jupiter looking at houses ranging from $150,000 to over $600,000 must have annoyed her; however, she never seemed bothered by it. She noted our likes and dislikes and took those ideas into consideration in suggesting other homes. We looked at about ten homes each day, making notes on the listing forms so we’d remember certain details about each house. When we got back to our hotel each night, we would review them. Many could be eliminated right away so Mal would draw a big “X” through the page. Although we saw some houses we really liked, we were surprised at how small most of the house lots were. Being accustomed to having a decent-sized lot (usually 2-3 acres) so it seemed odd to have a huge home with a neighboring home literally twenty feet away.

  

   We visited a housing development called “Abacoa” in Jupiter that was modeled after the Walt Disney “Celebration” development near Orlando, Florida. The homes were really beautiful. All of the yards were meticulously maintained and had beautiful flowering bushes and plantings. One nice feature was that the garage for each home was not visible from the streets. The garages were all accessed from a small private road that ran behind each home. Homes in Abacoa usually sold the day they went on the market. When the developer “released” new lots, a hundred people would show up and the “lucky” twenty buyers would snatch the lots up on the first day they became available. The developer would tell you exactly what style home you could build on that lot and there weren’t many options because the neighborhood was really pre-planned. Our biggest concern was that this particular neighborhood charged nearly $300 per month for Homeowners Association fees!

  

   We looked at an equestrian neighborhood called “Jupiter Farms.” Apparently, when this neighborhood was initially started, there was a demand for larger lots so that horse owners could keep their animals on their own property. The house lots were a minimum of one and a quarter acres and they were heavily treed and had lots of tropical vegetation. The home we looked at was interesting. It was a “Florida-style” home that had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining room, family room, and a small kitchen. The home was on a small private road and it had nearly three acres of land. There was a nice-sized, fully enclosed swimming pool. (These fully screened coverings keep bugs and debris out of your pool area and they’re quite common in Florida) This property also had a completely separate guest-house that had a huge bedroom, a full bathroom, a living room, a laundry room, and a full kitchen. Mal and I liked the area but we had no interest in having a guest-house so Mal drew a large “X” on the listing paper. We still had several more days to look at other properties and Grace was still willing to show us more.

 

Next chapter: We’re running out of time.

 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Life With Comic Books Part # 205


A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.

 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 48

Mal Howley: age 48

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #205

 

   So, we’re at my daughter’s high school graduation (and I’m about to be the invited speaker) and she’s just finished introducing me as “…and my father, Doctor Paul Howley.” There are hundreds of guests in the audience who’ve never met me before and know nothing about me so I’ve got let them know I’m NOT a doctor.  Here’s the message: 

 

 

  
Interesting footnote: 

   The next year, Cassy and I attended the local public high school graduation and the speaker explained to the students that although high school graduation is an important event in their lives, it will seem less and less important as time goes by. The students will move on to college, full-time employment, military service, or they could begin to raise a family. In fact, he continued, although you might remember some of the speech you heard, you probably won’t even remember who spoke at your graduation. As we were walking out of the auditorium, Cassy said, “He’s right! I don’t even remember who spoke at MY graduation last year.” 

  REALLY Cassy?!!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

My Life With Comic Books Part 204


A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.

 

 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 48

Mal Howley: age 48

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #204

 

   In June of 2002 we had a lot going on. We sold our home in Gilford, New Hampshire, rebuilt our cottage in Alton Bay, and we decided to move to Florida while Cassy attended Palm Beach Atlantic University. But at this moment, the most important thing was Cassy’s high school graduation from Laconia Christian School.

   Although we could only invite a few people to the actual graduation ceremony, we invited many relatives and friends to Cassy’s graduation party. Uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors, classmates, and friends were coming... some from very far away! We were especially honored that our good friends, Gary and Peggy Walker, were coming all the way from Nashville, Tennessee to the party!

   We hadn’t seen Gary and Peggy for a few years but they’d always been special friends. We’ve known them since we worked for them in the mid-1970s and we kept in touch as often as possible.

   Mal and my sister Sharon had all of the details for the party finished and my brother-in-law Greg took care of setting up the chairs and other stuff outside for the party. It all seemed to go together very smoothly.

   The actual graduation ceremony was quite nice. The principal of the school, David Borchers, cared very much about the students and he made the graduation very relevant and personal. This particular senior class meant a lot to me too, and not just because my daughter was in it. These past four years saw significant changes in these young people as they matured and I was fortunate to be around to see it.

   During the ceremony the school choir sang some songs and Cassy was featured. Seamus O’Brien, Dwayne Currier, and Cassy each gave a “message” to their classmates while I sat in the audience nervously awaiting my turn to speak.

   Here’s a video clip of Cassy and the choir singing one of the songs:


 



   Shortly after this song, Cassy gave me a nice introduction. But she threw me for a loop as she introduced me as Dr. Paul Howley! Most of the people in the audience didn't know me at all so I would need to let them know I was not a doctor.
Next chapter: My message to the graduates.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Life With Comic Books Part # 203






A brief introduction:


My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.


 


 


The current cast of characters:


Paul Howley: age 48


Mal Howley: age 48


Adam Howley: my son, age 21


Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18


 


MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #203


 


   We had decided to try to sell our Gilford, NH home. Cassandra was headed off to Florida in the fall to attend Palm Beach Atlantic University and we thought it might be good to try a new start; somewhere we weren’t reminded of Adam every waking moment. After interviewing five different real estate companies, only Judy McShane seemed interested in our offer of a one-day exclusive listing if they had a customer who might be interested in buying it. Judy called one of her clients and after a very brief conversation, she wrote up the one-day listing agreement.


 


   About fifteen minutes later, a woman drove a Mercedes down our driveway, left her kids in the idling car, and after a brief introduction, began to look around the inside of our house. She spent about ten minutes looking around the house but she never looked at the finished basement and she didn’t look around the backyard. As she was headed out to leave, she asked Mal if we could be out of the house within fourteen days. We didn’t take her very seriously but we said, “Sure.”


 


   Within a half-hour, she called us with an offer. I declined her offer. She asked what the lowest price I’d sell the house for would be and when I told her, she agreed to buy the house. The next morning she arranged to come to our house to measure for drapes. While she was there I asked if she’d be interested in buying my beautiful carved-oak pool table and without a moment’s thought, she agreed to pay the full price I was asking.


 


   This was all great news for us since we really wanted to sell the house quickly, but there was a significant problem. We had no place to move into! We had torn out the bathrooms in our Alton Bay cottage and we still couldn’t find a carpenter to rebuild them. My sister Sharon and her husband Greg offered to let us stay with them at their home in Laconia, New Hampshire until we could find someone to rebuild our cottage bathrooms. Meanwhile, we had to empty all of our stuff out of our home and we brought it into a nearby storage facility. Greg let me use his truck and trailer and he helped me move the heavy furniture while several other friends helped pack and move boxes. It was a lot of work but we were able to empty the house in time for the sale date. The entire process of selling the house took about two weeks!


 


   After we had been living with Greg and Sharon for a couple of weeks, Greg suggested that HE could possibly rebuild our bathrooms at the cottage. (Hmmm….did he really just want to get rid of us?) Greg is a man of many talents so this seemed like a good idea. He worked hard and within a short time, the cottage bathroom was finished. But, in an effort to “help” him, I ended up getting hurt. I was kneeling on the floor moving some building supplies when I heard a loud pop. It was my kneecap! The pain was intense and within a minute my kneecap swelled up.


 


   As each day passed, the pain seemed to get worse. I could barely walk and I had too much going on to be incapacitated. We had Cassandra’s high school graduation coming up soon and we were planning to have a pretty big graduation party for her. The party was going to be held at my sister’s home because they had plenty of room inside the house and they also had a beautiful backyard. I called my doctor on a Saturday and he allowed me to come to his home to get a shot of cortisone in my knee to relieve the pain. Thankfully it worked great!


 


   While my wife and sister planned the graduation party, I began to work on preparing the message that I was going to give at the school’s graduation ceremony. I’m not a good writer so I was struggling with this. I knew a few of the ideas I wanted to express but putting it all together wasn’t easy for me. For several days, I’d make little notes as ideas came to me, hoping that when it was all combined, it might make some sense. With only a few days before the graduation, it was time for me to get serious about putting the message together.  I laid out all of the scraps of paper on my sister’s coffee table and just as I got ready to start writing the first draft, my wife asked me to go to the grocery store to get some of the food for the party. While I was gone, my sister’s dog, Bailey, ate all of the notes!


 


Next chapter: Cassandra’s graduation from high school.


 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 202




A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.

 

 

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 48

Mal Howley: age 48

Adam Howley: my son, age 21

Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 18

 

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP:  Part #202

 

   My daughter’s eighteenth birthday was coming up soon and she wanted to do something special for this “milestone.” We rented a banquet hall in a nearby town and hired our nephew, Jesse, to be the DJ for the event. Cassy invited over fifty of her friends from her high school and almost all of them confirmed that they’d attend. While it was mostly going to be a “dance party” we’d also provide food and beverages.

 

   While the planning for her birthday bash was ongoing, we were still working on the high school musical play that was coming up near the end of the month. “The Truth About Cinderella” was a comedy musical that would feature over thirty-five students as actors and about a dozen students and adults involved in the backstage areas including set design, costuming, choreography, makeup, and vocal preparation. The play would be directed by Brenda Carney, a talented volunteer and the school’s drama teacher. I wasn’t very involved this year but I did coordinate the ticket sales at our new performance location at the Newfound Regional High School in Bristol, New Hampshire.

 

   The play was a success and it was nice to see several “new” actors take on larger roles than they had previously done in the past four years of the drama program.

 

   As Cassy’s last year of high school was nearing the end, our lives were pretty busy. We had lots of details to take care of to wrap up the school year. In late May, the senior students put on the “Senior Banquet.” At this banquet, parents and friends are invited to a dinner prepared and served by the junior class and entertainment including students from both the senior and junior classes. My parents drove up from Massachusetts to be there. I remember it being a nice evening but at the end of the night, representatives of the senior class asked me to be the speaker at their high school graduation ceremony! They must have been crazy! I accepted the invitation but then I was told that I’d have to wear a suit and tie! YIKES! For the past four years, I’ve pretty much worn a white t-shirt and blue jeans every single day.

 

   Cassy had been accepted into the Musical Theatre program of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida for the fall. Mal and I discussed the idea of moving to Florida to be near her, just in case she needed us (or, more likely, we needed her!) We had recently bought a cottage in Alton Bay, New Hampshire that we were renovating and we had a large home in Gilford, New Hampshire. We’d need to try to sell the Gilford home before we could move. We had torn out the main bathroom in the Alton Bay cottage and we were having trouble finding a good carpenter to rebuild it. Everyone we knew in the building business was very busy on other projects and couldn’t help us.

 

   We called several real estate companies and set up appointments with them so they could pitch us their marketing ideas on our home in Gilford. After each representative gave us their plan for selling and marketing our house, we’d say, “Well, while we’re considering all of the potential realtors, if you know of anyone seriously looking for a house like ours, we’d be happy to give you a one-day exclusive right-to-sell agreement.” One realtor snorted, “Oh, we don’t do business like that!” Another pretended that they’d consider it but it was pretty clear that they were not really interested. The fifth realtor, Judy McShane, said, “Hmmm. Let me think for a minute. I might have someone who’d be interested.”

 

Next Chapter: The craziness begins!