This past weekend, I attended the One-Year Anniversary celebration at BAMF! Comics Coffee Community in Maitland, Florida. September 14th was the exact date when, a year ago, the store opened.
There was quite a big turnout for this event, which included cosplayers, gamers, and local comics creators, including James Haick and Richard Rivera from Scout Comics. There was a lot of conversation going on, and it was a fun time for all to share!
The day brought up several thoughts about this kind of thing, so let me share them with you!
CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES
In this time when some local comics shops simply disappear unexpectedly, it’s important to recognize the milestones a store completes.
It’s also a big deal to recognize that a shop has been open for one year, or whatever. I know that some people don’t like tooting their own horns, but you raise your status in the comics community when you let people know what you’re doing.
I keep thinking about upcoming possible events, such as the Halloween Comic Fest, which is scheduled for the Saturday before Halloween. Of course, the BIG event is Free Comic Book Day in May, but I truly believe we can have two of these in a year without reducing FCBD’s impact.
How this takes place will likely vary based on the store, it’s clientele, and it’s owner/staff. Some stores have employees who cosplay then. Others have give-aways for people at their store. I would suggest that, whatever a store does, make it fun for all ages.
I always have to throw in a warning about stores who serve food. I can’t help but remember the one shop that served wedding cake to people buying the issue when Peter Parker married Mary Jane Watson. They were cleaning out cake from comics pages months later.
Now, on the other hand, BAMF! has a station that serves coffee, cookies and other well-packaged snacks, and they handle it superbly. There’s a place to sit and eat that’s safely some distance away from the comics and collectibles, so it worked like a charm on Saturday. I’m sure that’s true other days as well.
As their website says, “Comic book shops can be so much more than places that sell books… and when we started BAMF! Comics & Coffee we had many goals and dreams, but the dream that took precedence was community. We set out to create a place that feels like a home-away-from-home, a place of inclusion, a refuge for all, a place to be part of something.”
One of the things I observed a lot this weekend at BAMF! was that there were a lot of people making new friends or catching up with ones they already know.
I’m always reminded of the poster that came out from DC a long time back that featured Lobo saying, “This ain’t no Library, Fanboy!” What that was trying to combat was the notion that one could come to a comics shop and read all the new issues there, then leave without buying anything. The only place I know that encourages such things is indeed the local library.
However, I’ve been to many LCS’s where it truly was so quiet because no one was speaking to anyone else, which really wasn’t a friendly environment. There was one shop in Washington, DC, in which the only employee there had his face buried in the computer, not saying a word to anyone. Maybe that works for some people, but it made it tough for me to actually hand over my hard-earned money if I couldn’t even ask for recommendations.
See, comics on one level are truly a solitary endeavor. Only one person reads a comic at one time, I like to point out. But then we always want to discuss the ones we really enjoyed with other fans, or recommend them to people.
I have had many times when I had fellow fans recommend books to me at a shop. I have found many comics I love to this day that way.
In other words, events like anniversaries can be fun and friendly happenings that make fans feel like this is, on some level, “their store.” For example, I enjoy going to my current LCS because I know I’ll get to “talk shop” about what’s going on in the industry with the owner and others there. I look forward to it.
BAMF! has a very friendly and open environment, and I would recommend making that happen in your place to any other store owner.
By the way, I’m sure X-fans recognize the name of the store from the noise Nightcrawler makes when he teleports—BAMF!
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS
One thing I also noticed on Saturday was that BAMF! had a nice variety of comics for sale, including several local Indie books. Believe me, creators truly appreciate shop owners who support them!
I always mention that many of us live on a budget, so buying everything that comes out is out of the question. But store employees can often take time to look over new books, then recommend the proper ones to fans they know. More and more stores seem to be doing that, and it does help when someone comes in with extra money to spend. Again, I’ve found many excellent comics that way!
What I often see is the person who orders the weekly comics getting familiar with what customers like. For example, my LCS ordered a Batman: The Animated Series statue knowing I would want it. Talking with your regular customers, at least, and with others can help you get an idea just what’s moving and shaking among fans.
Local stores are the lifeblood of the comics industry, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Really!
I didn’t get to spend the entire day at BAMF! during the celebration, but I had a great time while I was there! It’s definitely on my list of stores to check in with if I’m looking for something! Congratulation to Enzo Garza (creator of Gutt Ghost from Scout Comics, by the way) and the entire team for hosting what I’m sure was a successful event, and I look forward to returning there often!
What do you think? How can comics shops help fans buy into “their” store? What events have you seen a store hold that others should know about? Why do you frequent the LCS you go to on a regular basis? Whatever your opinion, feel free to express it in the space below!