Evolving to changing retail landscapes and customer needs is no easy task. Many companies close up shop under that kind of pressure, but for Midtown Comics, evolution has become its superpower. Since opening its doors on West 40th Street and 7th Avenue in New York City in 1997, the comic book shop has easily combated threats, eventually morphing into the largest comic book shop in the U.S. — and a go-to New York tourist destination for travelers from around the world. The chain ranks No. 14 on TripAdvisor’s 1,000 top New York stores, and The Village Voice named it the best comic book store in the city in 2012. The National Geographic Channel also gave the store an extra power boost that year with a reality TV series called Comic Store Heroes, which was set at Midtown Comics.
The key to the shop’s success is ensuring comic book fans are always happy, whether they are seasoned readers or newbies in the community. Founders and long-time comic book sellers Angelo Chantly, Thomas Galitos, Robert Mileta, and Gerry Gladston joined forces after noticing a void in New York’s comic book retail landscape. They created a list of things to do — and not to do — based on their own experiences. Then, the band of friends opened Midtown Comics’ flagship Times Square location, where it’s been ever since.
Mission: Accommodate the Marketplace
Adhering to this to-do list has helped Midtown Comics achieve its success. Each task is based on the shop’s mission to accommodate the comics marketplace. The company manages an e-commerce business, which recently moved to a new location in New Hyde Park, New York, and it has assembled two more brick-and-mortar locations in Midtown East and the Financial District in NYC. It has adapted to social media, and maintained comic book subscription services to make comics accessible to all of its customers.
The company also maintains a fully stocked inventory in a well-organized store with “a bookshop motif” to appeal to all fans. It stocks “everything possible in the form of comic book titles, graphic novels, and everything related,” Gladston, Midtown Comics’ chief marketing officer and co-owner, explains. The shelves are packed from floor to ceiling with items to make followers of practically all fandom happy. You can find anything from the latest Avengers issues and Little Golden Books versions of Star Trek stories to My Hero Academia figures and a Captain America movie poster signed by Chris Evans. While scanning the shelves, you can even discover retro gems like Golden Girls figures that you won’t want to pass up.
Gladston attributes this range of fan products to Midtown Comics’ expert buyers, “who take advantage of all kinds of trends relating to the world of comics and pop culture. Nostalgia plays a role, and many of yesteryear’s favorites are popular once again in the field of collectibles, including the Golden Girls.”
In terms of comic books, they track and speculate the success of each one to make sure that the customers love what they purchase — and won’t have buyer’s remorse afterward since the comic books cannot be returned to the store.
Using this method, the Midtown Comics crew aims to include everyone in the fan community and take an active role in it. The store holds promotions and sales at least two days per week to bring fans back into the store and keep them coming back onto the website. It listens to customers’ advice to improve the shopping experience, and it also hosts several signings and meet-and-greets.
Building the community doesn’t stop at the events. According to Gladston, the staff must be “passionately in love with comic books” to make fans happy and allow them to have the best shopping experience possible. While they are knowledgeable of the inventory, more importantly, the sales associates discuss their favorite characters and analyze storylines with each other and customers.
“That’s so important because customers come in off the street, and some are die-hard experts, who don’t need help, but many are just casual fans or lapsed readers who might not have read a comic book in five years [or] 10 years, and they want to know what’s going on,” Gladston explains. “In other industries, that’s not so easy to find.”
The staff is known for pointing out story arcs and characters that can help new readers — who are aware of film adaptations — get started in the books, so Midtown Comics seeks out comic book fans who really know their stuff to take on staff roles.
So whether you are a seasoned expert in all things geek, or you’re just visiting New York City and looking to browse around, odds are: Midtown Comics has something for you.
Photos: Midtown Comics/Gerry Gladston
This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Winter 2020 Issue No. 6., click here to read more!