The Comic Bookie in Claremont is closing Friday after 18 years, a fact noted on this blog a while back. The store is also the subject of Wednesday’s column.
Owner Chris Peterson and I had a long chat Monday afternoon about the genesis of his store, its evolution and the factors forcing him to close. It surprised me to learn just how precarious his finances had been for a number of years. He’s a relaxed guy and hid his stress well.
I also learned that he had retail experience as a Music Plus manager, mostly in the La Verne store, during the 1980s. That’s why he was so good at customer service.
He takes some of the blame for the Bookie’s demise, referring to the point when he stopped carrying new comics. That cut his expenses, but not surprisingly, he also lost customers, some of whom never came back even when he did carry new issues again.
In retrospect, he wishes he’d sold the store at its height. He’d hoped to sell in recent months but was unable to find a buyer: “A lot of people want to own a comic shop. Not too many people have the money to buy a comic shop.”
Some of the factors that did him in are afflicting all comic shops.
“The comic shop as a paradigm worked because it was so unique,” Peterson explained. Unsold stock could be sold at a markup as “back issues.” That was stores’ lifeblood. But few fans today collect back issues, many opting for paperback reprints, which are sold at chain bookstores, or online, at a discount.
In a business climate like that, greeting customers by name, as Peterson did, can only take you so far.
Peterson isn’t sure of his next move but may go into teaching. This was a relief to me. After hearing that he’d been involved in records and comics, two dying industries, I was worried he’d go into newspapers.
Comic Bookie is at 1420 N. Claremont Blvd., Suite 203 B, Claremont — but only through Friday.