When Hi De Ho Comics opened its doors in 1977, it was one of the first in a fledgling business enterprise. Back then most comics were still sold at newsstands. Not all comic books had yet adopted the barcode (introduced three years earlier), which would eventually help expand the business into supermarkets.
Bob and Mark Hennessey would build what would become an incredible hub for independent artists and enthusiasts around Santa Monica. The store would be a favorite haunt of the Hernandez brothers, of Love & Rockets fame, punk singer Glenn Danzig would find his way into the vast rolodex and a Mark Hammil would stroll in for some books and supplies from time to time (he still does – sorry to namedrop you, Mr. Hammil)
It was a great place to be, a cultural lightning rod for Los Angeles culture, it hosted comic book conventions here in town and was a founding member of the LA.Times Festival of Books (which we still attend to this day), culminating with a 1998 Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award.
In the years since their departure as owners, the store lost a bit of its luster. Moving from the original location a few times until it found its way to the current home on 1431 Lincoln Blvd., the site of a former labyrinthine army surplus store.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t loved for. The prior owner, who bought it from Bob and Mark, spent arduous hours prepping the space and building the single largest card gaming location on the Westside. We still do orders magnitudes higher than other locations. He built the stage that we use for all of our events today and made good use of it, a couple of destructive rock shows still live in recent memory. At one point, there was even a second Hi De Ho in Orange County, but much like many other small businesses, it shuttered in the wake of the Great Recession.
And so there it was. A lumbering giant, old bones and old soul, sleeping under nearly 40 years of books and dust. The old rolodex tucked away into a giant metal filing cabinet, long since shoved in a corner and covered in loose product and tarps. The stage covered in boxes and piles of odds and ends. Wooden boxes, older than me, piled 10 feet high. It’s preserved forever (for better or worse) on our Yelp page.
This week marks one year since we took over ownership of this piece of Los Angeles history. To take a world famous business and bring it back up to a place of prominence was a daunting task, but it’s something we all wanted.
A lot of investment, financial and personal, has happened in the past year. Gone are the cramp, narrow passages, everything’s in easy to find order, clean and bright. We’re waking the giant. It’s not fully roused from its sleep, but with each step we make we move closer to our goal. By 2018, we want to win the Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award once again. A full revolution, a rise from the ashes (or in this case dust). The only reasonable end result for us is to make the store the best in the world.
And so, we continue on with bigger and grander ideas. Weird and new directions. But all in the name of making the store a lightning rod of culture once again. This past weekend we hosted film actress Amandla Stenberg and 500 of her close friends as we threw a launch party for her first comic book. In attendance were actors, producers, mothers, daughters, young, old, black and white. As the night went on we watched all of these people mingle together and soaked it all in. This was a far cry from where we were standing a year ago.
Where will we be a year from today?
– Mauricio Machuca