Location: Huntington Beach, California
Owner: I’m known as Frank Castle or Coffee: sorta my comic book world pseudonyms.
I got the chance to sit down with the owner and ask him a few questions.
Kk: Can you please give me a summary of how you ended up as an online retailer?
Frank: This is a bit of a long story so I will attempt to do the cliff notes version for you as best I can. Comics have always been a part of my life since I was a little kid so my life has always been there just like my desire and want of having my own business some day. A handful of years ago I was helping work with a good friend of mine who owned a comic book shop. He closed his doors but the seed was planted for me without me realizing it yet. A couple years later my mother was diagnosed with Lung Cancer and that had me reevaluating my mortality and my life. I found comfort in my morning jogs to the beach, where I would bring a comic with me and get my coffee to just escape into fantasy for 20 or so minutes until I had to go to work for the day. I started to post some of this on Instagram and started to get feedback from people, some even asking if the comics I was showing were for sale. That was it, having some interest in the comic community motivated me to just do it. I started all the paperwork and the business license process to become my own shop. It’s definitely a huge financial endeavor and I’m still just trying to eek by. I have learned though that I love this community and I have finally figured out what it is I want to be when I grow up! A comic shop owner!
Kk: What are some of the fun aspects or advantages of being an online vendor?
Frank: It’s fun engaging with people from all over the world, and seeing those that order from me share their stories and to get a chance to see the book I got for them in another state! No other real advantages (laughs).
Kk: Any drawbacks?
Frank: All kinds of drawbacks, the shipping cost for one, it's hard sometimes to compete with other big companies that can offer free shipping etc. I can’t control the shipping companies and the damage they cause the books, though I do my best to package them extremely well. That’s another giant overhead cost. Another drawback is not really getting to meet my customers in person, I enjoy the in person connections. That’s why I do my best to utilize my Instagram page as sort of a virtual walk in shop. My customers know that they can DM me anytime to work on their pull lists or have a private video chat with me to just talk shop.
Kk: All things considered, is opening a physical shop at all a thought in your mind?
Frank: Opening a physical shop is absolutely 100% a thought in my mind. That’s one of my next big steps. Since our area has had two shops close down in the last 3 years it definitely can use a new one. And I have so many ideas that I want to be able to put into effect with a shop. Though I want to maintain my online presence like I have and even more so.
Kk: Have you noticed a higher demand for independent publishers among your client base?
Frank: My client base definitely does seek out more of the indie books, and I find mostly it’s because their local shops don’t typically carry some of these titles. I do my best to get the customers exactly what they are seeking. I also typically read more indie works as well.
Kk: What are some things that your business has in common with a brick and mortar shop?
Frank: I think the first thing is inventory, I don’t have the luxury of having a big building to house all my inventory so I have to get a bit creative. But all kinds of shops have to deal with this. Also another commonality is trying to make the customer happy. I strive to always give great customer service and attention, but we all know that we can not please everyone and sometimes we may let some people down.
Kk: What are some efforts that you are taking to help you stand out as a comic book retailer?
Frank: So, one thing that I do to help me stand out is show that I'm a collector and reader as well as a shop owner. I don’t always need to put on that selling face that I can just talk comics and am willing to go above and beyond to meet with a customer to just hang out and talk. I think this helps in a more personal connection. I also give a free cup of coffee away with every comic purchase to help spread the joy that coffee and a comic has given me. I also have plans with my physical location to do the same thing. The Coffee and a Comic book club is specifically a really nice touch!
Kk: What was the original intent behind forming it?
Frank: I had a few people I engage with on IG ask me about something like this. I decided that it would be a great way to meet more people in the community, as well as get others connected and be able to engage more with everyone. I would also be lying if I didn’t say that it was also a business strategy to hopefully generate more return customers and possibly gain more customers by offering a very big discount to book club members. Though the great thing about this community is that some club members don’t even take advantage of the discount and say that they are just excited to be a part of the club and that supporting small business matters most. I’m really excited to see this club grow.
Kk: With meeting number 2 coming up in a few weeks, can people join without needing to do too much catch up?
Frank: I make it extremely easy to join or participate. The next meeting is going to be with King Spawn Number 1 and new members can still get the 35% discount from me and all they have to do is go to my website scroll down a bit and quickly fill out the small book club form. People can also participate without joining, just head over to the YouTube channel and subscribe and come hang in the comment section. Also this next meet will have the editor of Spawn, Thomas Healy as a guest in the discussion. So extremely excited for that.
Kk: Are there other initiatives in the works that you are at liberty sharing with the readers at comicbookcurious.com?
Frank: Other than getting a physical location and fine tuning the book club, there are a couple other things I’m working on establishing; don’t want to jinx some of them. But one I will mention is working on a charity to organize with that will most likely be connected to veterans and helping children read more. It’s all still in the works.
Kk: What’s your pitch for one storyline or character that hasn’t been adapted to screen yet that you would like to make happen?
Frank: Okay!!! Don’t hate me!!! But sometimes I have to say, keep my comics off your big screen hahahaha. Seriously though if I could recommend something to the big screen, it would have to be Mister X filled with the mystery of a dystopia retro future city with all the paranoia that comes along with insomnia.
Kk: Do you have one story or character that never gets stale?
Frank: Punisher! Frank Castle has been my dude for ever and I can always read his stories.
Kk: Final question, how would people find out more about you and what you offer, should they be interested?
Frank: I guess first head over to Instagram @coffee_and_a_comic along with going to www.coffeeandacomic.com and really hopefully soon to come to my store and enjoy a coffee with me. Thanks for this KK; you have definitely been one of the people that has inspired me to do what I love and take the chance!
Kk: Thank you for taking the time to chat for a bit. I am excited to see what you do with your business from here!
Check out the previous retail spotlight on New World Comics!