Monday, February 20, 2012

9. Five Years

Almost five years ago to the day (I'm three days late in posting), I wrote this: The Secret Project

In that post, I revealed that I had bought a comic book shop, that it would be changing names in 2008 to Rogues Gallery Comics & Games, and talked a bit about what buying a comic shop meant to me.

Since that time, I don't think I've really had much cause to regret the decision. We had a tough go with the recession in 2009, I won't lie, and there were months there where I was really worried, but thanks to a supportive customer base, an amazing staff and family stepping in to help with a bank that could not have been less interested in helping us out, we made it through.

Not only did we survive, we thrived. 2010 was pretty good. 2011 was great. 2012 is on track to be even better. Not bad for an industry that the Internet has been saying was dying for, well, as long as I've been reading the Internet.

A few days ago, my wife (and bookkeeper) told me we'd paid off the loan to the bank. That was the brass ring I've been reaching for for the last five years. We still have plenty of overhead, including rent, power, payroll, inventory, but in terms of debt? We're clean. This is ours now. And that feels pretty great. It feels even better knowing how many people were betting against us. Not maliciously, really, but for every jaded pundit who declared that comics retail was dying, for every creator who complained that retailers were ruining their industry, for every banker who thought "comics? not worth our time" I can now offer a nice, friendly, middle finger. We made it. Other than maybe a few months in 2009, I never really doubted we would, but man is it nice to be able to say it.

What I wrote then:
"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."

What I say now:
Actually, I still believe most of this. I'd be happier with a healthier market, but DC did us a huge favor with the New 52, reinvigorating the sales of single issues. Image is doing us a huge favor with new books like Chew and Strange Talent of Luther Strode and Thief of Thieves and Witch Doctor, etc. etc., not to mention Walking Dead. IDW is doing us a huge favor with spectacular licensed books, reinvigorated favorites like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and new hits like Locke & Key. Dark Horse continues to impress with Hellboy and the BPRD, licensed hits like Star Wars and Mass Effect, plus plenty of their own new books. Even Marvel, which gets a lot of bad press from the retail corner, are probably going to give us a sales success with the "give the fans what they want" of Avengers vs. X-Men, and if nothing else, they're publishing Waid's Daredevil, for which I'll be eternally thankful. That's not even mentioning Archaia, Archie, Bongo, Boom!, Oni, Top Shelf, Red 5, and the dozens of smaller publishers whose work we sell week-in and week-out.

Diamond has screwed us over during the last five years. There were the weeks when other shops in town got their books a day earlier than us. There are the weeks where they miss an entire run of an issue and we have to wait a few extra days for it. There are near-constant screw-ups in our reorders, damages to our books, missed books, etc. However... if you really step back and look at it, I maintain that these guys have an immense job to do, and 90% of the time, they get it right. I'd prefer 100% of the time, of course, but I'll take 90%.

And I've seen an increase in selling people on books I like. Sixth Gun, Chew, American Vampire, Amulet... these are a few of the top sellers in my store, books I love and hand-sell and get great response to.

I've also grown to know and love more of our games section. I've always been a gamer, but I've started to really appreciate the depth and breadth of board and card games available for groups from hardcore Euro-gamers to more casual families. In the past five years, I've fallen in love with games like Pandemic, Dominion, Ticket to Ride and Small World, to name but a few that have supplemented favorites like Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan. Perhaps more importantly, a lot of customers have discovered these games through us, and we've seen steadily increasing sales on boardgames.

Role-playing game wise, I have to admit to being a little disappointed in the direction that the big gun, Dungeons & Dragons, has taken, but I also have to admit that the launch of 4th edition was probably a big factor in our early success. We went all-out with a midnight release and joined up with their Encounters program, and even if I've soured a bit on the current edition, I loved it for a good long time and so did many of my customers. More importantly, Paizo has stepped up to the plate with Pathfinder and provided what many of my customers were looking for from Dungeons & Dragons. Even if D&D's new edition comes out in 2013 and is a huge success, Pathfinder has carved itself a nice niche in the market, and the worst case scenario is that we have two hugely successful fantasy role-playing games.

We've had some staff turnover, but I've had the same two managers, Nick Budd and Dave Farabee, since we started this crazy ride, and I could not have done it without them. I've been incredibly lucky to have two smart, passionate guys to run this place, and I hope that we'll continue to be the team in place for a good long time. And I've been pretty lucky with my staff too... when we had to make changes, it was a little nerve-wracking, as we hadn't done it for a while, but it always worked out for the best, and I would put my staff up against any comic book store in the country in terms of enthusiasm, friendliness, product knowledge and general awesomeness.

Five years down. Lots more to go.


-n8 said...


Tha Baron said...

Congratulations Randy. That is awesome!

Cyrus2342 said...

Congratulations, Randy. I think I can speak for all of your friends that we're absolutely thrilled that Rogue's Gallery continues to thrive.

_Chris Cox

Jim B. said...

Congratulations, Randy!
And as an old Comic Pants aficionado (is there any other kind?), I'm happy to hear that Nick and Dave are still with you and doing well.

Phil said...

Love ya, Randy! Congrats on the success! Thanks for shaping my taste in comics through the Fourth Rail!