Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Life With Comic Books: Part #21


When we opened our store, That’s Entertainment, in April of 1980, we were using Phil Seuling’s Seagate Distribution to buy most of the new comic books we sold each week. We supplemented this with product from Capital City Distribution of Wisconsin. Soon, Capital City began offering better terms than Seagate. Seagate required payment two months in advance but Capital was now offering me 30 days credit. This was important in the beginning of the store because it allowed me to increase the amount of new product I stocked without draining my cash reserve. The only drawback to switching to Capital City was that everything was shipped from Wisconsin so it would take longer to get the new comics each week. My competition would get his shipment of new comic books two days before me. This may seem insignificant to many of you, but the comic book collectors wanted their comics as soon as they were printed. If the competition had the comic books first, the collectors would buy them there instead of at my store. I knew that my back issue prices were lower than my competitor, but I also knew that the steady stream of sales of the weekly new comic books had the best growth potential.

I began to aggressively promote my new comics’ reservation service in the hope that my good customer service skills would eventually lead to loyalty as far as the new comic books went. After a few months in business I had about sixty regular weekly customers signed up for my subscription service.

My partnership with Jay wasn’t going so well. I believed that the comic book shows and conventions were a part of our business that had no future. I was the partner who watched out for “the bottom line” profits and I didn’t like the direction the comic book shows were heading. The show organizers were raising the booth fees too high. There were a lot of smaller conventions now competing with the big guys. Comic book stores were opening up all around the country and they were selling comic books every day so the average collector didn’t need to go to the comic book conventions anymore. I knew that I didn’t want to travel or do any more comic book conventions. I believed that running a store would be a more stable business. Jay disagreed.

When it became clear that we had such different opinions of the future for our business, I suggested that we split up the business. Jay and I divided up our large inventory. Jay took most of the expensive vintage comic books to sell at the comic book conventions. I figured that the comics that were priced from 50 cents to ten dollars would sell the best through our store. We worked long into the night to divide the stock in an equitable fashion. When we couldn’t agree on who would get a particular item or a group of items, we’d just play a hand of poker for ownership. We were determined to make this break-up as pleasant as possible. For the most part, it went okay.

My wife, Mal, stayed at home every day to take care of our son, Adam. She had put Walt Disney characters displaying alphabet letters on his wall near the crib. She would point to each letter and explain to Adam the sounds the letters made. I’d get home from working at the comic book store around 7:00 PM and I’d spend as much time as possible with Adam. We would take turns reading books to him almost every night in the belief it would instill a life-long interest in reading and it became a very special time for us together. We also found that it made bedtime something that Adam looked forward to.

Mal didn’t like my work schedule. The store was now open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and I was there, by myself, all of these hours. Mal wanted us to be able to get together with our friends on the weekends like a “normal” family. Saturday was the busiest sales day of the week so I knew I had to be there but I decided to begin looking for an employee to allow me to take other days off to be with my family.

Next chapter: We meet the local Mafia.

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