Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 54


There are hundreds of comic book stores all around the United States and I’ve always wanted my store to stand out as something different. Most comic book stores sell old and new comic books, trading cards, and comic book related action figures. I consider “That’s Entertainment” to be a combination comic book and collectable store. The term collectable can be used to cover almost anything that someone is interested in “collecting”. We sell magazines, posters, action figures, board games, strategy games, model kits, records, movies, trading cards, toys, sports memorabilia, and much more. The key to making our store stand out from most other stores is our diversity. Our inventory is constantly changing and we’re always interested in buying stuff that we don’t already have in stock. We strive to always have ample money available to purchase interesting collectables from vendors and customers.

My wife Mal and I were out shopping one day and I noticed that a hobby store had a big sign in their window advertising a “clearance sale”. They had lots of classic board games like chess and checkers, dartboards and dart supplies, Othello games, Parcheesi, and a bunch of craft supplies. I talked with the owner and I could sense that he just wanted to get rid of this inventory so I made him a ridiculously low offer that he accepted! Even though this was not the kind of inventory that I’d normally sell in my store I felt pretty sure that I could sell some of it. I paid the storeowner in cash, loaded the stuff into my car, and brought it to my store. I set up some display tables close to the entrance of my store and made some “cheesy” looking hand-made signs offering this new inventory at half-price. To my surprise I sold most of the items within two weeks. I realized that my customers are normal people who play darts, chess, Parcheesi, and more. It ended up a very profitable deal for me and a good deal for my customers too.

One of my strangest purchases happened in the mid-1980’s. A man was hired by a local homeowner to clean out a big barn. The man was told that he could keep (or sell) anything that he found as he was cleaning the barn. He brought me a lot of old magazines and books from the 1950’s that he found and he was very satisfied with my offers. I gave him a list of the types of items that I would be interested in buying from him and he continued to bring in more items as the week went by. Finally, when he was done cleaning out the barn and he had nothing left that he thought I’d be interested in buying, he thanked me for doing business with him. Almost as an afterthought, he asked, “Do you know anyone who would be interested in old milk bottles?” I knew that there were some people who collected milk related items so I told him that if the price was “right” I’d buy them from him. He explained that he had over one hundred different glass milk bottles and they all had different pictures or logos silk-screened on them and they appeared to be from the 1950’s. He said he’d like to get $140.00 for the lot and since it seemed reasonable to me, I agreed to buy them from him. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to sell milk bottles in my comic book store but I knew that I’d be able to sell them through Skinner’s Auction Gallery that was in the small town of Bolton, Massachusetts, where I lived.

It didn’t make any sense for him to carry all of the milk bottles into my over-crowded store because I’d just have to carry them out at the end of the night, so I gave him the keys to my car and asked him to put the bottles into the trunk of my car. He loaded them into my car and I paid him the money. I was really busy for the next week so I didn’t get a chance to go to Skinner’s Auction Gallery. The milk bottles were still in the trunk of my car. A man stopped by my store and looked around but didn’t seem to find anything he wanted. I asked him if I could help him and he said, “Is there any place in Worcester that sells milk-related collectables?” I laughed and handed him the key to the trunk of my car. He went outside and looked at the milk bottles that were still in my trunk. He came back into the store and asked, “How much do you want for them all?” I offered him the whole lot for $400.00 and he was thrilled to pay that. He paid me and then he went back out and loaded the boxes of milk bottles into his car. He returned my keys and left. I sold the whole collection and I had never seen or touched them at all! The “odds” of a collector coming to my comic book store looking for milk bottles was so slim but it really happened! It’s one of my favorite purchases.

My store has been open for over twenty-three years now and we have always been able to buy any collection that’s offered to us. Money has always been available. Except for one brief period. Normally, I try to get all of my “end of the year” tax information to my accountant early enough for her to begin calculating my tax liabilities in early January. This one year I was late with the information. I pay very large quarterly estimated tax payments to the federal government so that my full tax due will be more easily budgeted. By the time my accountant finished my tax return it was only a few days before the April 15th filing deadline. She called me with the good and bad news and said, “The good news is that you were very profitable this year. The bad news is: You know that vacation you were planning? Forget it.” I owed over $60,000.00 more in taxes! This was in addition to the high quarterly estimated payments I’d already made during the year! I didn’t have that much money available. Most of my money was invested in CD’s and I couldn’t get it out. I decided to write the IRS a check that I knew I didn’t have the funds to cover, but I knew it would probably take four or five days for the check to get to them and at least another four or five days to get to my bank. I explained the situation to my employees and decided that we could not buy any new product for the next three weeks. I used my existing credit terms with Diamond Comic Distributors so that I’d have the full thirty days before I had to pay for the weekly comic book shipments. I could “catch-up” with Diamond later. With this “belt-tightening” and the money that I did have available I was able to pay the full tax bill on time. It was the only period of time in the past twenty-three years that my store wasn’t actively seeking new inventory to buy.

Next chapter: Two comic book collectors fall in love at my store!

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