This Thanksgiving weekend, as consumers struggle into box stores or flee toward newly spinning ski lifts, one small set of unsung local retail heroes gets a chance to flex its powers for a wider audience.
On Saturday, Nov. 28, the first ever Local Comic Shop Day takes place nationwide. Book Review (1618 U.S. 52 N.), Rochester’s own comic shop, is among the shops participating.
Piggybacking off of Black Friday, the promotional day joins others like Small Business Saturday and Shop Local Day Local Record Store day (which Rochesterites are unable to celebrate without leaving town) as a way for consumers to rally around their favorite local corners of the retail world. Book Review is one of the city’s longest-standing independent retailers; it opened its doors 31 years ago and has sold comics, cards, and collectibles ever since.
Store owner Craig Cotten views the day as a way to encourage people to come in and support his shop while getting soon-to-be-rare merchandise. The day was organized by a handful of independent comic book publishers and later joined by Marvel and DC, or, “the big two,” as a way to call attention to a comic scene staple — the local shop. Publishers have produced a slew of exclusives for the event; all of which will only be available at participating local comic shops.
The reading audience in Rochester, according to Cotten, “is really geared more towards the big two,” so the array of offerings from smaller publishers is something he looks forward to sharing with his customers.
“I went after everything just because, why not?” said Cotten. “The big chore for me is going to be to figure out how to get that into everybody’s hands. I see a lot of giveaways that day, because like, one of the items, there’s only 500 of them nationwide. We were able to score one. It’s a sketch cover for the all-new Wolverine.”
Though he has already received lucrative offers for that particular comic, Cotten wants to sell it to an actual Wolverine fan who shows up for Local Comic Shop Day.
“To me it’s not all about the money grab. It’s a ‘show some love and appreciation to the people that have supported us over the years,'” said Cotten.
Cotten acknowledges that competing with big box stores and online retailers as an independent retailer can be difficult. Like most local comic shops, he sees an emphasis on customer service and store atmosphere as his biggest competitive assets.
At Book Review, Cotten offers a pull-list service, which allows his customers to pre-order books and have them set aside, eliminating the threat of having to find an out-of-print book.
James McCauley, owner of Jimmy Jams in Winona and River City Hobbies in LaCrosse, Wis., also stresses customer service. His Winona shop has over 200 graphic novel titles in their money back guarantee section. When a customer comes in looking for a recommendation, the store can select something from that section, and if the reader comes back dissatisfied, the store will buy back the book.
“It’s never our goal to sell you something just because we can, it’s our goal to sell you something that really stands out so that you learn appreciate how cool comics are,” McCauley said.
Both stores enjoy a coterie of returning customers.
“One of the greatest compliments I ever got, I felt, from a customer, was ‘It’s a normal store,'” Cotten said.
Though Local Comic Shop Day is more for established comic collectors, as opposed to Free Comic Book Day, which happens in May and is aimed at drawing in new readers, Cotten feels the promotion will help bring new readers in the door, which is all he needs.
“I always joke with the people, I don’t care if it’s comics, cards, whatever, you did it as a kid and it lays dormant in you for a long time, and then you’ll see something, and that nostalgia factor kicks in and it triggers it and you’re kind of walking down that path again,” says Cotten.