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October 19, 2006

Fantagraphics Announces Mega-Mart

Fantagraphics Books has announced the opening October 21 of a retail store in the Georgetown (south central) neighborhood of the company's home city of Seattle. They're going to open the store in a low-key fashion at first, with plans to slowly ramp up to speed and have an official opening celebration in December.

imageEven better, Fantagraphics' Eric Reynolds says the person running the store will be Larry Reid. Reid had Reynolds' current marketing and PR job with the company in the early 1990s, and is an outsized, larger-than-life character. Reid's a Seattle multiple-scene fixture going back what I guess would be a couple of decades now, and an extremely enthusiastic proponent of cartooning both when he's worked for the company and when he hasn't. Reid was the first PR guy that Fantagraphics had that was there a significant amount of time and that didn't seem forced into the job. He had a bonafide affinity for those Fantagraphics comics of the late '80s and early '90s that had connections to the growing "alternative" culture that Seattle spearheaded and of which he was a part (Hate, Eightball), and more than anyone gave the company a foothold with those kinds of fans. He's also an experienced event organizer and art show curator. His running a company-backed store could be pretty great. Or at least it could mean a few more Larry Reid stories.

I have no idea what Fantagraphics' thinking is in opening a store, but as a former Seattle resident I would have welcomed it when I lived there. Seattle has a few fine full-service comic shops, but it's never had that one alternative-specialty shop, the showcase store that would be the obvious stop for a high-profile comics tour or the after party for a museum opening. The closest things to such a store over the last 15 years, Fallout Records and Confounded Books, were admirable shops but smaller and less forceful a presence comics-wise than one might hope of a destination store.

The other thing that's interesting is that in a way this is putting a new face on an old story. People have always been able to shop in the Fantagraphics warehouse. It's just something the company never advertised. I must have steered 50-60 people visiting Seattle down to that building over the years. Most went to pick up copies of bargain material from the "damaged" room. Others went to check out stuff up close that never made it to their local shop. Nothing against the sensation of shopping while people all around you stuff envelopes and weigh boxes, but a Fantagraphics shop should make for a much more pleasant experience.

if you were under 30 in Seattle in the 1990s, there's an 83 percent chance you bought a slightly damaged copy of Hey, Buddy! at the Fantagraphics warehouse
posted 6:04 am PST | Permalink

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