British Columbia

'End of an era': Vancouver comic store closing after 44 years

A 44-year-old institution in the Vancouver comic book scene is closing. Comicshop in Kitsilano has been struggling with financial woes.

The decades-old Kitsilano Comicshop is in receivership, facing imminent closure

Lee Pearson, owner of Bridge City Comics in Saskatoon. said he found a comic worth about $18,000 dollars in a box full of comics Alan Neumiller brought in. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Tron Douquette, 48, has been stopping in at Vancouver's Comicshop since he was old enough to buy stuff.

On Friday, he was at the store with his mother when he learned it was closing.

"It's too bad," said Douquette. "It's definitely the end of an era."

"My mom just bought me a comic," he said, pointing out the images of spaceships inside the glossy pages. "I got the Doctor Strange comic."

Comicshop customer Tron Douquette holds up a Doctor Strange comic that his mother bought him. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Friday's visit to the shop may be Douquette's last — a bailiff has served papers, and the business is in receivership, according to assistant manager Brent Stratichuk. Any day now, the door could be locked.

Comicshop has been a big part of Stratichuk's life. It opened in 1974, has changed locations twice, and the assistant manager clearly remembers the first day he worked there — it was a Monday.

"I started, literally, March 4, 1985," he said. "It was a pretty important date."

"This is where I really wanted to be, and I finally just wore them down," said Stratichuk, adding that he had done a high school work experience stint there in 1982.

But business hasn't been good.

A collection of Archie comics fills a shelf at Comicshop. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The owner passed away a couple of years ago, and his wife has been overseeing the business from afar. In recent years, Stratichuk has picked up a second job. On Friday, he was making comic book sales wearing his dark blue FedEx uniform.

He said customers remain loyal, but they're having a tougher time coming in to pick up things like special orders that are sitting on shelves. Given the shop's financial woes, it hasn't been able to bring in new orders — the lifeblood of a shop relying on regular customers.

"Comics are more popular, more accepted than they ever have been before," said Stratichuk. "The downside of it is, comic [books], themselves, have not seen a major bump in cashing in on that sort of thing."

Brent Stratichuk says the massive popularity of comic-based blockbusters like Deadpool haven't meant an increase in subscriptions for the actual comic books. (Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp/Associated Press)

He raised the example of Deadpool, a 2016 movie starring Ryan Reynolds that brought in more than three-quarters of a billion dollars at the box office worldwide.

"Did [the shop] see any increase in subscribers to the comic series? Virtually none at all. The sales on Deadpool have neither gone up or down," said Stratichuk.

Across town at Golden Age, a comic store on Granville Street, business is still bustling.

Owner Patrick Shaughnessy remarked that the location benefits from a lot of walk-by customers, but the store has a different feeling to it, compared to Comicshop; there are long shelves full of comic books, but a lot of other items too.

"If I was depending just on the comics and the graphic novels to stay in business, I don't think I could do it — certainly not at a downtown location," said Shaughnessy.

Patrick Shaughnessy is the owner of Golden Age. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"You've always got to try and operate on all cylinders: the posters, the T-shirts, the action figures, the rare old comics, the new ones and the graphic novels," he said, adding Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons and video game merchandise to the list.

A section at Golden Age is set aside for a range of Game of Thrones doormats.

Golden Age has shored up its comic and graphic novel business with things like merchandise from popular video games and TV shows. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

At Comicshop, there are a few action figures and a poster section in the back, but it's all about the comic books — that is, until the creditors finally move in.

Stratichuk doesn't know when they'll end the store's 44-year run. He said any effort to save the shop would be a "Hail Mary," and noted that local billionaire Chip Wilson has been in Comicshop with his kids.

"So Chip, if you're out there, we could use the help," he said.

Comicshop assistant manager Brent Stratichuk says any effort to save the store now would be little more than a 'Hail Mary.' (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Follow Raffery Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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