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Cool or cutting edge? What comic store is best?

Every now and then I daydream. Lately those daydreams have been about comic stores. I still have this dream to open a comic store, and one day I will…the question is, what kind of comic store? Will it be hip and trendy, cool but safe, or totally out there?

This isn't something that will happen this year, maybe not even next year…my first priority is making our online store All New Comics THE number one comic destination for Canadians, and there's a lot of work to be done on that front.

One of the cool things about our distributor's website is that they have all of these cool “On the road” reports, where they show different stores from all across North America. In Toronto they visited 1,000,000 Comix, 3rd Quadrant, Comics and More, The Silver Snail, the Beguiling, the Comic Emporium, and Yesterday's Heroes. The stores are all tidy, clean, and nicely laid out…but they're comic stores. They're distincly comic-booky, and as cool as places like the Beguiling and the Snail are, I don't know if they fit my image of what “cool” is.

My partner likes the classic “Comic store” look. He likes bins, lots of toys and merch, and he has a fondness for dark colours.

I'm a fan of open white space, a lack of clutter, and cool design. I have two different visions in mind, either an antique apothocary look, or a modern art gallery look (and depending on what day of the week it is, my decisions change). I want new comics, TPB's, and cool toys that you can't get at Toys R Us to be our focus. I'd love to have an art gallery section as well focusing on local artists to give them a venue to sell their work.

Two stores I'm a huge fan of are Überbot in Winter Park Florida, and Magic Pony here in Toronto. Uberbot sells comics and cool vinyl toys, while Magic Pony is all about toys and art. Both of them have that gallery feel to them, and both of them look distinctly “different”.

Now here's the trouble. I showed a bunch of guys at work pictures of Zeus in Dallas Texas (a favourite store of Pete's) and pictures of Überbot. The comic guys LOVED Zeus. It's cluttered, it's got loads of stuff, and it looks like a “comic store”. They didn't like Überbot because it was too neat looking.

I showed them both to non-comics fans, and those folks liked Überbot, saying it looked like a shop on Queen Street they'd go to, and said they'd never want to go into Zeus.

So…the question is, is this a good way to get new folks into your store (which is how you grow your business), or does it just alienate the hardcores, who are ultimately the bread and butter that keeps your business afloat?

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.