Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 36


By 1984, my store was bursting at the seams with comic books, records, toys and trading cards. I was only paying $350.00 per month for rent, but I needed more space. The store retail space and backroom, combined, was only 1500 square feet.

In the mid-1980’s, rents in Worcester had skyrocketed. Real estate investors from Boston had bought up lots of the commercial property with the hopes of transforming Worcester into a new Boston. The average retail space was now renting at an annual rate of $12.00 per square foot. I was only paying about $2.80 per square foot because my landlord lived in another state and he was unaware that Worcester had become a “hot” location. I had offered to buy the building a few times, but each time he told me his “asking price” it was slightly higher than I thought the building was worth. Luckily for me, the landlord was content with the rent he was receiving from me. I had been in this building for four years, with no lease, and he had not raised the rent at all. He must have appreciated that I always paid on time and didn’t bother him with minor problems with the building.

The tenant who rented the store next to me wasn’t as easy. He was frequently late with his rent and when he decided to move out, my landlord asked if I wanted to rent that store also. There was only one problem. There was no door joining the two stores. The landlord said that if I wanted to create a doorway, I’d have to do it myself.

The wall between the two stores was made up of two layers of solid brick and I knew I wasn’t up to the challenge of creating the new opening. I contacted my friend, Jim Stoll, and he began smashing the wall down with a sledgehammer. I rented a dumpster that had wheels on the bottom and had it delivered and placed on the sidewalk as close to the store as possible. The dumpster was quite large and it took up most of the space on the sidewalk. While Jim pounded away at the walls, his son and I loaded the bricks into the dumpster. Within a few hours the majority of the bricks were removed from the wall and they were in the dumpster. Unfortunately, this made the dumpster so heavy that we couldn’t move it. I called the trash company to come and get it, but I had forgotten that it was the beginning of a holiday weekend. They told me they couldn’t come to remove the dumpster for four days. I explained to them that the dumpster location made it dangerous to pass by on the sidewalk. When I explained that it was full of bricks and it was now too heavy to move they laughed. They told me that construction materials like bricks were extremely expensive to dispose of and it would probably cost about $1500.00 to get rid of these. They also insisted that they couldn’t get the dumpster for another four days.

I had to get rid of these bricks and get the dumpster off of the sidewalk. There was only one solution. I had Jim cut a hole in the floor of the store and we unloaded all of those bricks from the dumpster and just dumped them into the basement of the store! The basement was completely empty and there was no other way to get down there, so putting a few tons of bricks wouldn’t hurt anything. Employees and customers would refer this to as “Howley’s Folly” for many years. As usual, I just didn’t think this expansion plan through.

Next chapter: We obtain a complete Marvel Comics collection in gorgeous condition and learn about turning it into an event.


  1. I still laugh everytime I hear that story.

  2. Darryl, kind of keeps me more humble...Paul

  3. Oh Paul...that's priceless.

  4. Cake,
    well...not quite cost me a bunch of money...and it cost me some self-respect..Paul

  5. But in terms of storytelling value...priceless.

    (Though I'm sorry it cost you, of course!!)

  6. Paul - Are these bricks still there? This is funny!

  7. Kris,
    Yes...I'm pretty sure those tons of bricks are still there, since there was no known entry into that basement area....Paul