Friday, March 05, 2004

ADD interviews Jim Crocker 

Hmm.. how did I miss this one? Even though I love Modern Myths and try to shop there when I can make it up to NoHo, this interview provides a lot of specific information I never knew about...

First, probably the most lucid approach to running a comic shop that I have heard:

First and foremost, I want to run a store that looks and feels like a well-run independent bookstore you’d find in any relatively progressive college town or small city. We can write and speechify and blog until we’re blue in the face that comics are Ready for Prime Time, but if we don’t have places that women, kids, and new readers can feel comfortable and welcome, we’re not going to make much headway.

I spent several years working for the Borders mass-market bookstores, and after that it became pretty clear to me how a specialty store could succeed in their shadow by taking page from their own book, which was to look at what worked in independent bookstores and then replicate it on a mass scale using their size as an advantage. So we looked at mass-market bookstores and replicated what we could while using our size as an advantage. We offer everything they can that we’re able to: liberal return policies; no-obligation special orders; convenient operating hours; parking; clean public restrooms; racking by genre including a dedicated section for young readers; gift certificates; credit card acceptance; computerized inventory; and offset what we can’t with the advantages traditionally touted as the ways for comics shops to compete: a wide selection that includes used and O/P titles and a knowledgeable staff. Hopefully, the balance will appeal to both longtime fans and new readers, which is what we’re shooting for.

More generally, we’re an independent bookstore that happens to specialize in sequential storytelling, so we look to other successful independent bookstores for ideas about advertising, community outreach, and how to deal with competition from the chains, as well as cherry picking the best ideas from the Direct Market. It’s a genuinely mixed blessing when people walk in and remark that “I didn’t realize this was a comic shop… it looks like a regular bookstore.”

And seriously, how many shops go the extra mile to do the following?

Modern Myths specifically includes sexual orientation and gender status as protected classes (along with race, religion, physical handicap, national origin, etc.) in our diversity policy for hiring as well as companies we do business with, and has a standing company policy of offering benefits to domestic partners.

Good stuff all around. I can't help thinking this is really where comic shops are heading. Now that places like chain bookstores are making their impact felt and less people are concerned about the baseball card collecting mentality, the old format of throwing some sutff together in a basement just isn't going to cut it anymore. MM really does feel like a professional alternative bookstore that happens to carry comics. Let's hope others follow his lead...

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