Last week Tom and Amy Adams did what many comic fans dream of — they opened their own comic shop. Located at 470 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217, Bergen Street Comics is the newest addition to the Park Slope neighborhood.
Tom was kind enough to answer a few questions about opening the shop, which will host a grand opening party this weekend.
JK: What made you want to open a comic shop?
Tom: Trying to find a way to turn my complete obsession with comics into some kind of career was probably the main reason that I wanted to open my own store. When you find yourself at your job, constantly looking for an excuse to sneak out to the comic shop across the street, then it may be a sign that you are in need of a change. I also think that the incredible amount of great new comics coming out over the last several years — we’ve been in a new Golden Age since at least 2003, if you hadn’t noticed — and the emerging dominance of the collected editions made it seem like selling comics was a viable option.
JK: And ultimately what made you decide to move forward?
Tom: Ultimately it was a trip to San Francisco in 2005 that really made it possible to move forward. Visiting The Isotope Comics Lounge was just an incredible, eye-opening experience. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to show my wife what a store could be by defying the traditional/stereotypical expectations. James Sime and his crew really won her over, and while we were nowhere near ready financially, we were able to start working on the store together. It really helped to turn my dream into our plan.
JK: So, the elephant in the room — and probably a question that you’ve heard before — why now? Did the current economy cause you to think twice about opening your shop?
Tom: Of course the current economy caused us to reconsider all of our plans. We were going through the financing process in October when it all really started to fall apart. The bank we were working with had given out 167 SBA backed loans in October 2007 and just 23 in October 2008. But, honestly, I don’t think we ever came close to completely giving up the dream. We just (seriously) adjusted our strategy, put less money into the build-out of the store than we originally planned, cut back on my initial inventory and held off on some other initiatives for now. At the same time, we were able to renegotiate some of our costs down and in some ways tried to make the downturn work to our advantage — as horrible as that may sound. For example, we were able to work with an incredible carpenter who probably would not have been available to us a month earlier, and he gave us a much more reasonable rate than we would have gotten previously.
JK: What made you decide to open in Brooklyn?
Tom: Well, first of all, we live in Brooklyn. But really, it was a matter of deciding to open the store in Park Slope and on the particular block we chose. We consider ourselves very lucky to have found this location after a long time searching for the best one for us. We love our block — a lineup of great clothing boutiques, an independent bookstore, an organic vegan restaurant and a “woman-friendly” sex-toy shop. We are also the crossroad between three great neighborhoods, right off busy Flatbush Avenue, around the corner from all of the great bars, shops and restaurants on Fifth Avenue, and an easy walk to Prospect Park, BAM and The Brooklyn Museum. We know that Brooklyn is the home of great comic shops like Rocketship in Cobble Hill and Desert Island in Williamsburg, and we believe that Park Slope deserves and will support a well-run store of its own.
JK: In terms of research, what have you done in preparation for opening your shop? What kind of help have you gotten from Diamond, other retailers, etc.?
Tom: I think the best “research” I could ever have done was leaving my previous job and going to work at Midtown Comics for over a year and a half. It was a tough gig — especially at my age(!) — but the experience was invaluable, and I can’t imagine that there would be a better store to see the complete cross-section of the comics buying public. I was able to interact with shoppers from all over the world and gauge people’s buying habits and expectations for what a comic shop should be. The owners were great to me and really supported my decision to do my own thing. Other retailers were kind enough to offer some quick advice, especially the great aforementioned James Sime. Joining ComicsPro at the New York Comic Con also gave me the opportunity to speak to Amanda Emmert from Muse Comics in Montana and Chris Powell from Lone Star Comics — they were both very encouraging and generous with their time. Finally, Twitter has opened up the opportunity for the quick exchange of ideas with other retailers like Greg Thompson of Local Heroes in Virginia. As far as Diamond goes … well, let’s just say that they have been having their own well-documented difficulties over the last couple of months, and I certainly haven’t been in business long enough to start piling on. But seriously, how many new accounts were opening in January of this year?
JK: What are your plans for your grand opening?
Tom: Our grand opening is actually set for this Saturday (March 14), more than a week after we first opened the doors. I could list a million reasons/excuses, mostly to do with construction, for why we had to do a “soft opening,” but it was a great weekend, so I am not going to spend any more time second guessing the decision. We are going to welcome ourselves to the neighborhood by hosting a party starting at 6 p.m. and going until close, before moving on to a bar around the corner. We’re expecting lots of friends and family of course, as well as our new neighbors and some of the awesome comics creators we have met recently — including Brahm Revel, who was kind enough to allow us to display the original pages from his Image Comics series Guerillas on our walls. Should be tons o’ fun.
You can reach Bergen Street Comics at 718-230-5600 and follow Tom on Twitter. I’ll check back in with Tom in the weeks ahead to see how everything’s going with the new store.
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