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 Aw Yeah Comics, located at 313 Halstead Ave. in Harrison, New York, the newest addition to a chain that also has locations in Muncie, Indiana, and Skokie, Illinois. We spoke with co-owner Marc Hammond, who founded Aw Yeah with longtime comics collaborators Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar.
ROBOT 6: Why did you decide to get into comics retailing?
Marc Hammond: I have been a fan all of my life, but more than that, I have been a retailer for nearly 20 years. Here, in Chicago, and where I am from in Florida, I have been doing this since I was in high school. When I was a kid, I discovered Thor #378, by Walter Simonson; I loved it so much that it was the one book I didn't want to loan to friends. So I went back to the store and bought a few extra copies, and gave them out to my friends. Being able to share new, amazing comics with others was what I have always wanted to do with my life. Combining that with the desire to use the store and our awesome customers in positive, charitable ways was perfect to me. We as a group have always wanted to create a positive community within the confines of the store, while having a positive impact on the community around the store.
Do you have a philosophy or strategy to retailing? Has it evolved from when you first started?
There are always things you can learn about presentation, retail strategy, innovative displays, and customer/creator interaction. We can always grow and learn more. In fact, you have to, to keep up with the times. What hasn't changed, and never will, is our desire to create a store atmosphere that is welcoming to everyone.
Your stores are spread out across three locations. How did you choose those sites?
We wanted to make sure that we had a store near each of our partners: We had already opened in Chicago near Art. Mark [Waid] and Christy [Blanch] had partnered with and eventually re-branded a store in Muncie, Indiana. Franco is in New York. Our location in Harrison was actually the first spot we looked at. We loved the interior, the proximity to the train, and nearly every other factor we considered.
Where did the name Aw Yeah Comics come from?
If you have known Art and Franco for any length of time, you know that the words "aw yeah" are like their "aloha," "hello," "goodbye," etc. It was the only choice.
Tell me about the layout of your store.
The layout is everything we like in comic stores: open, bright, clean and colorful. We have clearly marked displays for the new comics, the comics we produce, the all-ages section, and more. Everything is easy to find so that a customer need not ask or feel intimidated about being there. It also allows us the space to do plenty of events.
What are your current bestsellers? What are your favorites that deserve to sell better at your store?
Our best selling series currently are Star Wars/Darth Vader, Lumberjanes, Saga, The Walking Dead, Monstress, Batman, Spider-Gwen and Archie. Titles that I would love to see sell higher, because of their quality... Beauty, Diesel, Velvet, B.P.R.D., among others.
What is your customer base like? How has it changed over time, if at all?
It is a good mixture of families and single people. We get a lot of people who live in town, but we also get a lot of visitors from the nearby colleges like SUNY Purchase. That has stayed fairly consistent.
Do you have any in-store programs to encourage customer loyalty?
We have a subscriber discount pull service/program. We are also in the process of starting up a comprehensive kids reading and activity club.
How do you feel your online presence supports or supplements your store?
We are in the process of doing more with our website. It has been an area that had kind of fallen through the cracks. But Scott Holtz, an excellent friend of ours, is working hard to get it much more workable and streamlined.
Do you have events or any kind of programming, such as signings? How is it coordinating those?
We have signings, art classes, gaming, gallery openings, movie outings, and more. In this store, it is basically Franco and I putting everything together. But we find, as we move forward, that there are others interested in helping us with the constant grind of curating those events, and adding more.
Does your store attend other conventions?
As creators, Art, Franco, Mark Waid and Christy Blanch attend many conventions a year. We don't necessarily set up as the store to sell, but we attend to network and let people know we exist. That always helps us spread the word.
What do you see as the biggest challenge in the comics industry today that particularly affects your store?
There are almost too many titles being published. You can only order so many, and so many copies of the titles you do. Plus, not everything is going to be good. Having the variety the customer wants while not crippling your own cash flow is a constant fight.
What is the industry's biggest asset that is helping you be successful?
Information. Networking. Talking to creators and publishers. You need to do the leg work, and very few things just fall in your lap. But the resources are there, and they genuinely want you to order their books. You get out what you put in.
With all of the people that come through your store, I imagine you must have some great stories. What is the funniest or most memorable moment you've seen in your store?
We had an entire wedding party get rained out of their post ceremony photo shoot, so they asked if they could do that in the store. They even took one of our mascot plushie, Action Cat, on their honeymoon with them.
Anything coming up at Aw Yeah Comics that is a good excuse for someone to stop by?
We have signings on the last two Saturdays of January. Amy Chu/Poison Ivy #1 on Jan. 23, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Ulises Farinas/Rich Douek-Judge Dredd/Gutter Magic on Saturday, Jan. 30, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
If you’d like to see your store featured here on Robot 6, email us.