“Do you just sit around and read comics all day?” If you’ve ever worked in a comic book store, it’s a fairly common question to hear when people find out about your profession. While some bristle at the question (it’s akin to asking a waiter if they just eat food all day), I don’t personally find the question irksome. More than anything it speaks to a general mystery that shrouds comic book stores for the uninitiated.

In my, roughly, 11 years in the industry I’ve gone from a part-time employee with no prior comic book knowledge (this is the era before comic book films and TV shows were everywhere) to friendly business advisor to owner. Walking in to Geoffrey’s Comics in Gardena back in 2004, I was too busy touching everything that I never knew existed to really give much thought to what must go into it all.

When you walk into a comic book store, on the most basic level you’ll see customer service, ordering/stocking old and new product, opening and closing procedures. And, in some places, that’s all you’ll really find. So, what dowe do? Allow me to remove the veil from the shrouded world of comic book shop ownership.

First and foremost, build relationships. No business worth its salt is going to last very long without making real connections with their clientele. This can be seen in many ways, be it with employees making honest recommendations, driving across town to find one particular book for someone or just shaking hands and exchanging names. The stereotype of the surly nerd behind the counter is something we actively fight. I can’t think of any other type of business where some people will expect you to be rude to them and put down their tastes. You love comics? Great! So do we. That’s our main motivating factor.

An extension of those connections is maintaining an extensive online presence. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, eBay — we update all four regularly. As clich√© as it is to say it, this isn’t your father’s comic book store. Being lucky enough to be part of people’s online life helps us keep them informed of whenever we have a major event.

And boy, have there been some events. In 6 months we’ve done two major book releases, three stand-up comedy nights, three outdoor sales, one party, Free Comic Book Day and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (of which the store is a founding member). All of which require posters, advertising and labor.

There’s a ton of moving parts going on behind the scenes at any given time with a variety of people to coordinate with and make happy. In the end, wowing just one person enough to make us their regular comic book shop can make a big difference year-to-year.

However, this all came after months of extensive renovation. When we took over Hi De Ho Comics we inherited 37 years of back stock and furnishings. As some of our long-standing clientele can tell you, we moved out, chopped down, reused, repurposed, bought, sold, cleaned and organized the entirety of it. As a customer once put it, for a while there it looked like “The Hot Mess Express.” But it was all worth it to have the clean, open space we enjoy today. Six months in, we are still going through back stock every week and putting it out on the floor for sale. It’s a daunting, dirty, fun job.

So, what do we do? We’re clerks, movers, painters, cleaners, renovators, bookers, promoters, graphic designers, construction workers, appraisers, motivational speakers, social media analysts, landscapers and interior decorators. And every once in a while, on a day off, we sit around and read comic books all day.

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