Welcome to Store Tour, ROBOT 6’s weekly exploration of comics shops, and the people who run them. Each Sunday we feature a different store, and also get to know the person behind the register.
This week’s store is Emerald City Comics, located at 4902 113th Ave. N. in Clearwater, Florida. We spoke with general manager Chad Rivard.
ROBOT 6: Tell me about the layout of your store. How did you work that out?
Chad Rivard: Since October 2013, we are in a giant warehouse. We now have over 6,000 square feet of retail floor space, plus another 6,000 square feet of space that includes our Events Room, warehouse and offices. Our “New Wall” is the back wall of the store, so guests coming in to see all the new games, comics, books and toys will see a lot of the store on the way there. For the most part, everything is organized by category (comics/books/games/toys), because we have so much merchandise in each category that it’s more feasible to put it all together instead of in featured “franchise” kiosks (like Star Wars, Adventure Time, etc). We do still have some featured sections, though, like Walking Dead and Doctor Who. We also have a large section of comics and books and toys appropriate for all ages, that we call our Animation section. We used to call it the Kids section, but then adults didn’t think they were allowed to browse all the awesomeness there!
What’s the secret origin of your store? How did you decide on its name and its location?
Our CEO, Neil Johnson, opened Emerald City in Seminole in 1989 to give the community the pop-culture superstore that he never had growing up. He named the store “Emerald City” because in Wizard of Oz, one of his favorite movies, it was the place everyone went to have their wishes granted — and he wanted his store to be the place where everyone’s pop culture wishes came true. The response to the store was so amazing that Emerald City expanded by opening a second location in northern Clearwater in 1994. The two stores continued to thrive — so much that the original Seminole location had outgrown itself! Emerald City was able to purchase a warehouse that is centrally located in the Tampa Bay Area, and on Oct. 1, 2013, the two stores moved and merged into one mammoth pop culture mega-store!
Why did you decide to get into comics retailing? What in your background do you think made you particularly suited for the retail side of comics?
Neil was a huge comic book fan since childhood, and he used his personal collection to start the back issue section of Emerald City when it first opened — but he was always wise to approach EC as a successful business instead of as a hobby. Since the beginning, he has always brought in team members who are passionate about comics or games or toys — but most importantly, they are friendly and knowledgeable and hard-working.
Do you have a philosophy or strategy to retailing?
We make our guests happy by offering them the pop culture merchandise they want in a clean and neat store staffed by a friendly and knowledgeable team! We carry a stellar selection of pop-culture items — including comic books, games and toys — for all ages and interests!
In our advertising, we say, “Your best memories are here at EC!” There’s a double meaning there: We have a ton of characters and merchandise that you remember fondly from your childhood, but we are also making new “best memories” in how we treat our guests and in the fun events we host!
Among our team, we like to say that Wednesday’s New Comics Day is like Christmas, and Saturdays are like Disney World. On Wednesday mornings, all the new comics and toys are out like Christmas morning, and we are giving away gifts — we always have a giveaway for the first people in the store when we open (and again at 7 p.m. as some guests get in after work), and we have a raffle for some great item or prize pack! On Saturdays, we often have some amazing event with Costumed Heroes and sales and activities — and sometimes another giveaway and raffle!
Over the years, we have come to realize that we are not so much in the “comics” business as we are in the “experience” business. If we give folks a fun reason to come in, and then we make sure we are friendly and helpful and knowledgeable to our guests, the money will follow.
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