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After more than 30 years, Arkansas comic book stores close doors

by Nyssa Kruse | June 26, 2020 at 6:35 p.m.
FILE — Michael Tierney

When Shashank Avvaru moved to Little Rock from Hyderabad, India, in 2014, he almost immediately sought out a comic book store.

He was a “lifelong nerd,” as he described it, but there weren’t any such shops where he grew up. When he visited the Comic Book Store, which was what he’d been looking for down to the name, he said he felt like the X-Men mutants when they arrived at Xavier’s Academy — a misfit who now had a home.

But Avvaru and countless others who have patronized the Comic Book Store at 9307 Treasure Hill Road and its North Little Rock counterpart Collector’s Edition, 3217 John F. Kennedy Blvd., will have to say good-bye to the brick-and-mortar iterations when the shops permanently shutter Saturday.

“It’s just going to be a place I miss,” Avvaru said. “I’m just glad to have the experience and having had that place be a part of my life, however short it was, in hindsight.”

Collector’s Edition opened in 1982, and the Comic Book Store followed in 1989.

Owner Michael Tierney said although he will be closing both stores, he will continue selling books online and through mail orders.

The decision to move away from brick-and-mortar was influenced by multiple factors, Tierney said. He is an author and is busy with commitments to multiple creative projects, including six books to be completed in the next year.

The lease was nearly up on the Little Rock store, and the coronavirus outbreak has significantly reduced foot traffic.

The pandemic also slowed or stopped the publishing and distribution of new titles on a national level, he said, putting stores in a financial bind and causing some to shutter.

When Tierney put out feelers for a buyer for the North Little Rock building and found one almost immediately, he said it felt like everything aligned to make the transition possible.

“Most of them are going completely out of the industry — I’m not,” he said. “I’m still going to keep on doing business. I’m just going to do it a different way.”

Keith Meyer has been going to the stores since they opened. He said as a child he could only find new comics at the grocery or drug store, and for older or special comics, he had to try garage sales or make orders from the back of magazines and trade publications.

Collector’s Edition opened up the possibilities of what Meyer could browse and buy.

“He would get some neat things like that in — first appearances of Iron Man or the Wolverine,” Meyer said. “There was no other place you can just go in and buy stuff like that.”

Melissa Boren started working for the stores in the ‘90s and said she knew nothing about comic books when she was hired but couldn’t help but take an interest.

She no longer works there but stopped by Friday to pick up artwork, take a picture of the sign and say goodbye.

"It’s kind of iconic,” she said.

Although Avvaru and others plan to continue purchasing comics from Tierney, some feel that more than just a retail outlet will be missing when the stores close.

Avvaru said he often tried to find any reason to visit, even when he didn’t have a car to get there because the store feels special, like a library with ancient or rare texts, and it is a place he has made friends.

“When you’re talking to these people, others jump into the conversation,” he said. “Before you know it, you’re talking for an hour.”

For Tierney, owning the stores was social, too. He said he isn’t married and has no children, so he’s devoted his time to the stores and his creative pursuits.

“The hardest thing about it is I’ve had almost four decades of daily interaction with all my friends coming to visit me,” Tierney said. “That’s going to be really tough not to visit with everybody every day.”

But Tierney doesn’t frame the closing as an end and sees some positives to the change.

“It’s a transition,” he said. “It’s a new opportunity.”

In other words, the story will be continued.


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