Free Google image of Castel Béranger’s entryway, retrieved on February 16, 2016 from https://www.google.com/search?as_st=y&tbm=isch&as_q=reader+comics+books&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&imgsz=&imgar=&imgc=&imgcolor=&imgtype=&cr=&as_sitesearch=&safe=images&as_filetype=&as_rights=#q=doorway&tbm=isch&tbs=sur:f&imgdii=sUcVitfbdkkEXM%3A%3BsUcVitfbdkkEXM%3A%3BfxXuQVoMcPO6qM%3A&imgrc=sUcVitfbdkkEXM%3A
Honestly, I was feeling so-so about our comics-store ‘Visit’ assignment; the library is where I want to be! But I trust our professor’s wisdom and looked for a store near the public library where I work.
A young adult recommended “the best one,” 4TH WORLD COMICS AND TOYS in Smithtown, NY. Her zest lit up a spark for my plans: Visit two stores to shed more light on local options! Google and the weather (wintery travel these days) cemented my second choice: GOLDEN MEMORIES COMICS AND TOYS in Selden, NY.
I walked IN the door of each store feeling neutral, but walked OUT feeling like I had just found buried treasure. And, by the way, I left each store with a full shopping bag of comics gems – new and vintage floppies, trade paperbacks, and one thick hardcover! (So much for pocket money for the next two months.) If you love libraries and books, you know what I mean: stacks of new reading! So much for neutrality!
Both stores are spick-and-span and well organized, with sharp signage and sensible, compact floor plans. GOLDEN MEMORIES has handwritten signs, painted-wood comics holders, and is less than half the size of the ‘posher’ 4TH WORLD – but in both stores, it’s easy to follow the groupings of comics by publisher/imprint, find ‘new arrivals,’ discover TV-related items, and follow the tabs in vast rows of old comics. You can’t miss the posters, chachkas, and collectibles. They’re nestled in everywhere. 4TH WORLD also has exclusive-looking board games, more tie-in items and books for sci-fi buffs and rock-star fans, cardboard stand-up figures, novelty beverages, a wider price range for collectible figures (up to $399!), trendy coloring books, and books about how to draw comics.
I was going to report that 4TH WORLD’s environment felt more comfortable to me and more instinctive to explore, because most of the store looks like a library! Scores of trade paperbacks and hardcover comics are lined up in tidy rows of spines, edged-out, and plentiful. This is what I’m used to . . . but my report about the environment of GOLDEN MEMORIES trumps that. That store ‘feels’ like a jam-packed museum that you don’t want to leave until they kick you out. The front covers of comics are displayed all over, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling. Browsing there is more of a pop-culture experience than a literature search.
Comics for kids are easier to find in 4TH WORLD, simply because there are more of them, and the displays are cleverly noticeable. In GOLDEN MEMORIES, the kids’ comics don’t take up much space, and I needed to ask where they were.
I asked my official question at both stores: “Where can I find comics with the old fairy tales?” Both contingents of staff perked up at that question. The GOLDEN MEMORIES guy, wearing a well-loved Star Trek tee shirt and reasonable beard stubble, had a lot to say and he seemed to know his stuff. Basically, the store didn’t have much to offer me except for a small section of about a dozen old “Classic” floppies ranging in price from $3 to $12. In fact, he doubted if I’d find the old tales for sale, but he recommended trying eBay. Our ‘business’ conversation evolved and became a long, down-home talk about remembering stories in comics from our childhoods, like The Ugly Duckling that my well-intentioned parents made me throw away during the anti-comics frenzy of the mid-twentieth century. We also talked about some of the lyrics in Metallica’s songs.
At 4TH WORLD, the two clerks in their logo-ed tees, caps, and fantastic piercings said much the same as the GOLDEN MEMORIES guy and they also seemed to know their stuff. They did, however, show me titles that might be related to what I asked for, including Full-Cover Graphic Novel Adaptation Classics Illustrated Deluxe Tales from the Brothers Grimm, Vertigo Fables: Legends in Exile, and a chaptery-looking book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales retold with a smattering of three-color illustrations. They explored with me.
I’ve seen surprised faces when some librarians I know hear that I’m interested in comics. (Is it my gray hair? My love for Renaissance and folk music?) I expected those faces in the stores, but I didn’t see any. At both stores, staff didn’t blink an eye when I came in. I was given the same attention as was given to younger customers. Staff were just as enthusiastic with my limited knowledge as they were with customers who could speak the lingo and talk the titles.
The staff at 4TH WORLD did a fabulous job of describing maturity levels and age appropriateness for the comics they showed me. I think they assumed that I was interested in fairy tales to buy for children, although I never said who the comics fairy tales were for. It was different at GOLDEN MEMORIES. The clerk spoke to my question and didn’t mention kids at all.
What bothered me (the negatives/weaknesses)?
GOLDEN MEMORIES smelled of mildew, and it was cold.
Would I choose a store (the positives)?
Yes, I would choose 4TH WORLD COMICS AND TOYS, the store most likely to have what I need in stock. They have a savvy sign-up system for discounts and pull-sheets. They shook hands with me, offered their first names, and offered any help now and in the future. A great shopping experience.
Yes, I would also choose GOLDEN MEMORIES COMICS AND TOYS. The experience was quite social. It felt like an ‘everybody-knows-your-name’ store. There’s a photo of the owner as a kid (OK, an educated guess, but you’d think that, too). A teen walked into that store and the clerk said, “Yeah, just go in the back and take the one you needed – just leave some for the rest of the guys.” The clerk seemed like a friend to his customers, especially the young guy walking with a cane. He helped the young man plan a trip to FORBIDDEN PLANET, making sure he knew about a special-travel-needs discount on the Long Island Rail Road.