Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 58


My store was running great in 1988. David M. Lynch was my one full-time employee and Pat Donley was a part-time employee. Both of these guys had strong knowledge of both music and comic books although Pat’s main interest was the more modern era of comics. David knew the entire history of comic books from the 1930’s to the 1970’s and he knew almost everything about older music. Pat’s expertise with the current music scene helped when it came to buying records and tapes to sell in the store. Pat also knew a lot about sports and sports cards. Between the two of them we had a really good team of “experts.”

I was still working at the store about four days each week and we all got along pretty well. Pat seemed to enjoy annoying David by playing 1980’s music on our in-store music system and then he’d give David a hard time when David played his 1960’s music. But overall it worked out.

The biggest problem was that I was not paying these guys what they were really “worth”. Even though my store had grown in sales to a comfortable level I was reluctant to commit to paying them a higher salary. It’s not that I was greedy. I always wanted to be conservative in my promises to my employees. I was concerned that if the business collapsed I would not be able to meet my commitments to them. In my business, after all of my employees and the bills were paid, I kept whatever was left as my paycheck. The employees came first. There were some weeks when I didn’t get paid at all. But there were other weeks when I was “paid” a substantial amount. Pat Donley was a college student so he didn’t require a lot of money, but David needed more and I was unwilling to pay him as much as he needed so he quit. He began selling comic books at a local weekly flea market. Looking back, I wish I had shared more with these early employees.

I had been renting the same store building since 1980 and I still had no lease. The landlord insisted that I rent it on a monthly basis. The store was located in a rough neighborhood but it was on a major road with heavy traffic. I had offered to buy this building numerous times but the landlord turned down my offers because he knew that he had a reliable tenant who would be happy to continue to pay the rent on time each month. I didn’t complain much because he had not raised my rent in the eight years I’d been there. He lived in another state and he seemed to be unaware that the Worcester area had become a “hot” real estate market. I was worried that the landlord would eventually realize that he could charge two or three times as much for rent. I needed to secure the future for my business. I contacted a real estate agent and was surprised when she told me that the building right next to my store was for sale. Included in this package of property were a 1200 square foot brick retail building that was currently being used as a restaurant and a separate “three-decker” apartment building that had three decent sized apartments. All three of these apartments were already occupied but the tenants were not paying very high rents. The top two apartments were only paying $250.00 per month and the ground floor apartment was only paying $200.00 per month. The real estate broker convinced me that I could easily double the rents that the tenants were currently paying and they’d still be getting a great deal. I made an offer of $185,000.00 and it was accepted. Suddenly I was in the “landlord business”. I was comforted knowing that I would always have an alternative place to move my store if my current store landlord ever decided to raise my rent.

Next chapter: My wacky tenants.

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