Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Secret Project

Back in late December, I posted about a secret project that was taking up a lot of my time. That secret project has also been the cause of my frustration and tension over the last couple weeks. Now it has been completed, and I can reveal it on the blog, for those who care.

I bought a comic book store.

More specifically, I bought the comic book store I've been co-managing for about six years now. Dave and I, the co-managers, had expressed to the owner a couple years back that if he was ever thinking about selling the store, we'd appreciate the right of first refusal. In November, he contacted me about buying it, I was interested and I've been putting together the deal ever since.

There has been much talk online lately about comic book stores in general, especially with Riot Comics closing down. But there are some pretty significant differences between me and Jason Richards, owner of RIOT, not to mention significant differences between Riot Comics and Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy, which I'm buying.

For one thing, Jason had this to say: "Don’t get me wrong. I still LOVE comic books (and will continue to buy them by mailorder so I can be a geek in the privacy of my own home), but I’m not sure I was ever in love with selling comic books. There’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that I was so blissfully ignorant about, from scheduling problems to freight charges, marketing gimmicks to creator meltdowns, that I’d much prefer to just be a reader again."

Oddly enough, I'm not as in love with comics as I was when I began working at the store, but my love for selling them has only grown. I love the business problems and marketing challenges presented in comics. Yes, I'd be happier with a healthier, bigger market and several distributors operating at the top of their game, but I've been dealing with Diamond for six years now (plus two years during college), and for all the shit that they get, they actually provide a pretty solid service 90% of the time. And I love selling comics to people who are getting back in or looking for something new. Even if I'm not into Civil War, I get a certain joy at seeing someone get just totally hooked on a comic series like that. And when I get to sell someone on, say, Queen & Country or Bone, or when a kid picks up Owly, that's a good feeling that's hard to beat.

Also, Dragon's Lair is a comics and games shop, about 50-50. I know some purists look down their noses at that kind of shop, but I'm pretty happy with the niche we've carved out. We've got the indie guys, the mainstream superhero readers, the kids (we've got a great level of family and kid readers) and we've got the role-playing gamers, the boardgamers, the CCG guys, etc. It's a diverse and pretty great customer base that Dave and I have cultivated over six years, and I'm really pleased to be able to continue with them.

We will be changing the name over the course of the year to distinguish ourselves. Because Yellow Pages advertising is done so far in advance, and because a new neon sign is gonna be pricey, and also because we want to avoid confusion, we're doing a slow transition. For the rest of the year, we'll still be answering to Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy as well as the new name.

The new name is Rogues Gallery Comics & Games. We open at 10 tomorrow (that's Monday) as we do almost every day, so if you're in the area, come on by and say hi. And maybe buy something... I've got to send my kids to college someday. ;)


Pablo said...

congrats. good to hear a store staying open through ownership changes. good luck, that's a huge deal. what balls you have sir. that's awesome. the more retail avenues the better, especially one that cares about the special type of customer service comics require. I hope i get a chance to stop in one day and help your kids through college. :)

GrayPumpkin said...

Hey Randy

Heard about this when I was in the store yesterday and just want to say congratulations and wish ya all the best. You guys run my favorite comic store in town, so much so that I always make it a point of making down there even though I live about a mile from the Austin DL. Anyway I'm very happy for you guys, way to go!

GrayPumpkin said...

Hey Randy

I don't know if you've ever seen or heard of this, I know I hadn't. It’s supposedly from an unaired Sixties era pilot episode for a Wonder Woman TV show. All I can say is wow! It’s hard to describe how bad this is, yet somehow and the same time it’s so unbelievably bad it crosses into unadulterated genius. OK so maybe that last part is just me.
The thing is like some unholy cross between Patty Duke, That Girl and the 60’s Batman TV show, in fact I’m pretty certain the narrator guy is the same one who did the narration on the Batman show, certainly sounds like him anyway. All I can say is watch at your own risk.

Chip said...

That's awesome, Randy. You're one of the good ones.

Parker said...

Get off, Lander! I'm totally going to visit that store when I orbit through again.

Randy said...

Thanks for the kind words, everybody!

And Jeff, if you're ever in the Austin/Round Rock area, we'd love to have you at the store... we're big fans of your work here.

Johanna said...

Congratulations! And to think I knew you when. :) I wish you every success!

Daryl said...

that's fantastic! congrats, Randy! if i'm ever in that area of the States i'd be sure to drop by!

Daryl (from Singapore)

Michael said...

Well, I can't say that I knew you when (although I do recognize your name from RAC), but I knew David and Dragon's Lair from back when.

I went to UT from 1984-88. I first bought my comics from a book/magazine store on The Drag (where the game room is now), then after they closed and I had a car I bought them from Phoenix on 34th (in the same place where Amy's is/was). Then they closed and David opened up Dragon's Lair not too far away. At the time it was all comics (and cats). I've been back there once or twice since then - it's in a new location, right?

Randy said...

Johanna, Daryl, thanks for the kind words.

Michael, I recognize your name from back on the Usenet days as well... Dragon's Lair is indeed in a new location, the second one since the house on 34th street, on Burnet Road.

The store I bought is the Round Rock location, just outside Travis County on IH-35.

Blair Corbett said...

Congratulations, that's awesome!