Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Life With Comic Books Part # 199

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 17
Ken: the manager of our comic book/collectibles stores
Dave: comic book expert
Hank: former owner of the comic book store we bought in Fitchburg, and current Worcester radio celebrity


“The Spider-Man movie ticket giveaway”

   Even though Ken and Dave had everything under control and all of the details were worked out well in advance, I was excited enough about the ticket giveaway event to drive the 110 mile trip from Laconia, New Hampshire to the store in Worcester, Massachusetts. I wanted to be a part of this fun event.

   Ken had designed an attractive commemorative movie ticket that featured a vintage illustration of Spider-Man on it. It looked great! That’s Entertainment in Worcester would be giving these tickets away to the first 500 people who came to the store on April 27th, 2002. While there was no purchase necessary to get one of these tickets, we obviously hoped that while people were at the store, they’d look around and find something to buy. This event was going to cost us thousands of dollars so it would be nice if our sales increased a bit to help cover the expense.

   Hank Stoltz, a Worcester radio celebrity and former owner of the Fitchburg comic book store we purchased thirteen years previous, arranged to do a live broadcast on the radio during the ticket giveaway.

   When I arrived at the store I was pleased that the store and the staff were ready to welcome the customers who would come to get their free ticket. A long line of people were already waiting outside. Hank was waiting for me at the table that Ken had set up at the far end of the store. We reminisced about Hank’s former store and we talked about current comic books while we waited for the doors to open at 10:00A.M.

   When the doors finally opened, the customers came to our table and we were surprised at the excitement of everyone who got a ticket. While most people understood that we could only give one ticket per person, there were a few people who tried to get us to give them five or six tickets for family members who weren’t there with them. We explained that we could only give them away to people who actually came, in person, to get the tickets. The line remained steady for a few hours until the final ticket was given away.

   At the end of the busy day, sales were very good and everyone seemed to have a fun time. I knew that the following Saturday (the day of the movie screening) would be even more fun!

   I drove back to New Hampshire that night, thinking about the long drive back the following week. You see, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I REALLY don’t like driving long distances. I drive a lot. It usually seems like a waste of time being stuck in a car for hours. Driving isn’t fun, but for me, it’s better than flying. It’s probably because I think I’m more “in control” if I drive.

   So, on Saturday morning on May 4th, I left New Hampshire again to drive the two hours to get to the theater in time for our special showing of the Spider-Man movie. After the theater filled with people I took the opportunity to welcome everyone and explained that after the movie, we hoped everyone would go back to our Worcester store to have fun during “Free Comic Book Day.” Apparently, I didn’t need to worry. When the movie ended I quickly drove to the store and was pleasantly surprised that the store was already packed with customers. We gave away thousands of comic books to eager customers and it seemed like everyone was enjoying the festivities. (Just a side-note: We give away thousands of comic books but we PAY for these!)

   Next chapter: I dreamed a dream of days gone by.