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July 18, 2013

Massive Toronto Real Estate Deal Has Iconic Comics Shop The Beguiling Location On "Chopping Block"


By Tom Spurgeon

An interesting story broke here about the implications of a significant downtown Toronto business real estate deal on one of the great North American comics retailers of the last quarter-century, The Beguiling.

I spoke to Beguiling owner Peter Birkemoe -- on-hand at Comic-Con International to run the astounding original art sales that the shop does in San Diego -- about the implications for his much-loved store. What he told me is that he was resigned to the store having to move to a new place, and had long been aware that most successful retail establishments to have the kind of beneficial relationship with their landlord/property owner that the Beguiling has long enjoyed with their own. While he told me he had little choice but to look on the opportunity as a positive, Birkemoe noted that the store enjoyed a lot of advantages. There would be a bit of time to see to the store finding a new physical retail foothold and this wasn't a chains-on-the-doors situation. They were successful enough that a move won't wipe them out. He has a team of accomplished, mature employees in place that he likes very much and trusts. There is a great deal of local goodwill from customers of the store and from Toronto generally that should ease any transitional issues just in terms of making sure that business stays steady. Birkemoe also articulated a sense of relief that he had taken a pass on any moves of recent vintage that might now complicate the staggering inventory-move requirements of relocating the store.

One thing on which Birkemoe commented that intrigued me is the fact that the Beguiling spin-off shop Little Island Comics becoming its own store was due in part to the space limitations that the current location has. A move to a new location for the parent store might include replicating for the home store some of the things that have worked about that move into kids-focused retail, or could even bring that material -- or that entire retail entity -- back into the main store in some fashion. It's still early. In addition to the pain of any forthcoming move, Birkemoe reiterated how well the store has been served in its current location by being in a cool neighborhood, and by being accessible by a number of personal transportation options. Any new location has to hold out the hope for some of the same.

So while it looks like there's a ton of work to do, it doesn't seem that one of the half-dozen mightiest shops on the entire continent is in any significant danger. Let's hope for the best move possible. If Birkemoe needs folks to hand-walk inventory to a new location, I'd consider making the trip just to pitch in.

A more formal statement should arrive on the Beguiling web site soon.
posted 7:00 am PST | Permalink

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