Lovefool 01.16.12 | Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)

A pair of less than stellar shopping trips in Omaha have our Lovefool pining for the warm embrace of St. Louis’ finest comic shops.

 

 

[Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here are strictly those of Lovefool and do not reflect those of PLAYBACK:stl, because around these parts, we love all of our local comic book specialty stores equally. — Jason Green, Fearless Editor]

Ugh. Today, I went out and about with the specific and totally noble purpose of finding something interesting to write about and had an outright terrible experience at one comic book store that left me furious and empty-handed and a better experience at another store that still left me empty-handed. It was, to say the least, a bit of a reminder that we’re not in the STL anymore because the comic shops I frequented in St. Louis were excellent. And why was that? I’ve been thinking about it (seething over it) all day and I have to wonder—was it because Star Clipper kept everyone in line? I, to be fair, didn’t last terribly long after their transition to the Loop, but I had also moved to out of town and then to Belleville and didn’t make it into the neighborhood often enough to justify keeping my pulls there. Did Star Clipper just set such a great standard for customer service that every shop in the area had to be awesome to keep up? Even Fantasy Books, the smaller store I started going to in Belleville, had amazing customer service, a decent selection on hand, a great ordering system and, sometimes, cookies. Was it the presence of a retail legend in the ‘hood that made everyone in St. Louis give us a better shopping experience?

 
Because, nerdlings, Omaha doesn’t have a Fantasy Books, let alone something like Star Clipper. Not even close. Oh, there’s a store that fancies itself in that league but doesn’t have the selection or staff or…well, any of the things that boost Star Clipper into that stratospheric level of shopping experience. It doesn’t have an Eisner, it doesn’t have rows and rows of gleaming, well-sorted trade paperbacks and it certainly doesn’t have A.J. Trujillo, who I’ve always sworn is Star Clipper’s secret weapon, in the office. Sure, A.J. has to be a nerd to do what she does but she’s also a woman and, therefore, probably understands what makes for a good comics experience for her fellow ladies and I’ve always wondered if that’s why Star Clipper was such a good environment.
 
I know, I know, what does this have to do with love and comics?
 
I left those other stores unhappy today, yes, in part because of bad service in one place but also because there was nothing for me, both literally and figuratively, at either place. I scoured the shelves, even the tucked away ones I had to contort to peruse, and didn’t find anything even remotely interesting. It was all major publisher books and second volumes of ancient manga, if any. I couldn’t find a single thing I was actively looking for and, at the first store I went to, didn’t get any help with it. The second store, while friendly enough, just didn’t have anything that seemed promising. Nothing. At all. I finally bought something because they’d been so nice that I didn’t want to leave without buying something, anything.
 
I have never ever, not once, left Star Clipper without purchasing something because they have such a wide variety of things and an idea that maybe their customers aren’t just the stereotypical teenage boy wearing a windbreaker. In fact, Star Clipper is a girl’s comic shopping dream. It’s clean, it has interesting things to look at on the walls (things that don’t involve girls with blank stares and improbable postures) and inviting little displays scattered throughout the store and in the gallery. The shop is easy to navigate, well-lit, clean, and it’s always stocked with fun things, not just books.
 
Of course, the books that are stocked are great because they understand that it’s not just yesterday’s nerd shopping for comics anymore. Yes, there’s an excellent selection of major publisher books and the indie guys are well represented but there was, last time I was in, also a shelf full of mini-books hand-stapled by local creators. There’s something for everyone there and I never had to walk away from a counter frustrated at the lack of eye contact. And I bet, had I walked in there or Fantasy Books today and explained what I was working on, there would’ve been a suggestion. Multiple suggestions with detailed explanations as to why those would be good things for me to read.
 
And so, I’ve ordered from Amazon, as I’ve been doing every time there’s something I want in under a month or, frankly, at all. I understand that stores have to play to their markets and maybe there aren’t that many girls stepping out funnybook shopping here in O-town, but poor customer service is inexcusable in any circumstances and this is my first experience coming face to face with a place that made me uncomfortably aware of why people look at me funny when I tell them about this column. I’ve always laughed at the stereotype that comes along with the words “comic shop” because they’ve seemed absurd, given my experiences, but…well. I’m not laughing anymore.
 
So, if you’re are a comics retailer or know one, won’t you think of the ladies who want to give you their money, too? Ladies, young and older, who might have found this column by chance, know that it’s not like this everywhere. There are some truly stellar stores out there and, even if you’re doubtful, your local store may be trainable. And St. Louis nerdlings? Hug your local funnybook vendor today and tell them you hope they don’t move to Omaha, no matter how much some crazy lady on the phone begs. | Erin Jameson
 
Star Clipper | 6392 Delmar Blvd. in the U. City Loop | 314.725.9110 | starclipper.com
Fantasy Books Inc. | 1113 E. Main St. in Belleville, IL | 618.235.0844 | fantasybooksinc.com

 

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