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 Comics Plus, located at 5139 Everhart Road in Corpus Christi, Texas. We spoke with owner and manager Jesse Mendoza, with some input from assistant manager Seida Mendoza.
ROBOT 6: What's the secret origin of your store?
Jesse Mendoza: It started off as my comic book collection amassed over 10 years. The first store, located on a major street of the small Texas town of Kingsville, was both home and a business; the front end of the house was the store. We eventually opened a second store in the larger city of Corpus Christi as well as one of the largest shopping centers, since it is a bigger market. With the success of the second location we decided to close the first store and stick to one location. Our first focus has always been comic books, so our first name became Comics. We did not want to be tied down to just comics, so Plus was added to the name to denote anything else we might decide to carry.
Why did you decide to get into retailing?
It started as my hobby and I figured why not make a living doing it. My wife said I should open a store, over the next couple of years the plan evolved and I opened my first store. I was a (science) teacher before getting into retailing, so I was used to wearing several different hats and creating my own structure. Plus, I am somewhat of a handyman, do-it-yourself type, so I build my own fixtures and can handle most jobs that need to be done such as remodeling our new location.
Do you have a philosophy or strategy to retailing?
To show the fun of comic reading and promote comics as entertainment first and collectibles second. Our philosophy has stayed pretty much the same, but now we sell many other fun things.
Tell me about the layout of your store. How did you work it out?
Our layout is meant to try to display as many comics and trades full front as possible and make use of the displays to create a flow throughout the store. I used home designing software to help me lay out all the fixtures before moving our store into its latest location.
What are your current bestsellers?
Batman, The Walking Dead, Star Wars, Harley Quinn, Deadpool
What is your customer base like? How has it changed over time?
In the beginning it was almost exclusively male, by maybe 98 percent. We opened during the early '90s superhero boom, so we saw lots of speculators buying up multiple copies. Today few of those exist. More females have been joining the fold in the last few years. At first, few customers bought anything outside of the superhero fare. Now our customers tend to have a broader range of interest in alternative/indie comics, but the majority still prefer superhero/action.
How do you reach out to new customers?
Facebook is our only regular form of advertising, other than targeted emails and a weekly email newsletter.
How do you feel your online presence supports or supplements your store?
My daughter handles the Facebook promotion, and it has helped to alert customers of events and merchandise that they might not know we had. We post new merchandise and events almost daily to keep people coming back to our page.
What do you see as the biggest challenge in the comics industry today that particularly affects your store?
The alienation of longtime readers by shortsighted strategies from Marvel and DC Comics. More specifically, the constant relaunching by Marvel and mass changes in the characters by both companies. In trying to appeal to a new readership, they are losing longtime readers (collectors) and creating a new customer that is not as devoted, does not frequent stores as often, and does not buy as many comics.
And what is the industry's biggest asset that is helping you be successful?
The fact that much of what we sell has become more mainstream and has a greater cool factor. Through movie and TV exposure, more people than ever are aware of the comic book characters and seek out merchandise with their favorites.
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?
Someone left about 10 long boxes of comics outside of our store -- I can’t remember exactly how many since it was too long ago. Upon arriving to open up one morning I found these and brought them into the store; I figured someone would eventually call or come in to tell us something about these. Since people constantly ask if we buy, I thought someone would show up to ask us to make an offer. But, days and weeks went by and no one claimed them. I guess someone gave us their collection or someone passed away and relatives donated them to us. Either way, while the boxes did not contain any high dollar comics, they did have many sellable comics that are perennial bestsellers in the $5-$15 range and some worth a little more. We made a hefty profit on these.
Sedia Mendoza: Back in 2014 on April Fool’s Day I decided to pull a prank on customers. I played a simple prank by putting a standard sign on the door that said, “Please use 'other' door -- Thanks, Management.” This was the only access to enter the store. Most people walked past the door and walk right back, others would pop their head in with confused looks, and I even had one person who drove around the building and came right back. Thankfully, everybody had a good sense of humor and people left smiling that day.
Back at the end of May 2015 we had a local Corpus Christi high school group of five teams consisting mostly of girls decided to use our store as the end of their yearly scavenger hunt. They didn’t inform us ahead of time. The team captains just showed up and hid in our store. They were soon accompanied by a parent who informed me of the situation. So awesome to see the groups roam the shopping center parking lot until they found their way here. The store was packed! We even got a few purchases in while everyone was trying to find the store.
Anything coming up at Comics Plus that is a good excuse for someone to stop by?
Jesse Mendoza: We recently moved to a new and bigger location and have increased our inventory of trades, novelties, and apparel. This year we are inviting everyone to come celebrate our stores 25th anniversary on Free Comic Book Day’s 15th anniversary.
If you’d like to see your store featured here on Robot 6, email us.