A few different men talk about helping a friend close down a store. They talk about how they reduced it to four walls and a carpet. Pictures pop up on the screen as they describe that day, showing empty shelves, and then no shelves at all, more and more of the store being removed until only a shell remains.
The former patrons describe how there was little time to process or mourn the closing of the store. One expresses the shock he felt at how barren the space has become, and another mentions how it didn’t sink in that the store was closing until the slotted wall was removed.
Images again color the screen – first with the white slotted wall, and then without it, showing unpainted drywall the color of a manila envelope beneath. Boxes were being brought out to prepare the move out. As the last box was brought out, one of the friends said to the others that they weren’t done yet. The pictures illustrate as we hear his voice tell the story of how he climbed a ladder and removed the sign, closing Alternate Realities Comics & Cards for good.
In the words of the shop’s owner, Steve Oto, enough was enough. He said he was closing “because of those customers who have left me in the lurch” – customers who preordered comics, but never picked them up or paid for them.
Other patrons of Alternate Realities recount what they missed most at what they referred to as the Store; the sense of community that persisted there. They wouldn’t just call someone and say they were going there. They would go to see who was there and spend the afternoon talking and hanging out. They would all go out to dinner together, and share their passion. But when Alternate Realities closed, all that faded away.
Some would find other comic shops, of course, but it was never the same. One described his experience at Fat Moose Comics by saying, “I still feel like an outsider. It’s not the same. I’m still conscious that it’s their club, and I’m just a visitor.” To these former patrons, Alternate Realities wasn’t just a store. It was a second home, and it couldn’t be replaced.
OVID.tv’s MY COMIC SHOP COUNTRY Shows the Struggle of Small Businesses in America
Directed by Anthony Desiato, this film is intimate and methodically paced, in this writer’s view. It consists primarily of video interviews from people in the comics business, from the former owner of Alternate Realities, which Desiato frequented, to comic shop owners in Las Vegas, to a former DC Comics executive. They all describe their experience with different facets of their industry, such as predicting which products to stock and the ever present challenge of getting customers in the door.
My Comic Shop Country showcases the struggles faced by a breed of small business that is on the decline in the United States. Those who are familiar with comic shop or superhero culture will find themselves hooked on this film.
For more information on this film, please visit the OVID.tv webpage for My Comic Shop Country
Images courtesy of OVID.tv.