I will never forget the third day that I was in my new favorite local comic shop.
I had recently switched comic stores after a long time. Up until then, I had frequented a comic shop near my house, a small chain comic shop that usually had what I needed and served the purposes of a weekly pull box and enough long boxes to hunt through when I needed help completing runs or wanted to browse their newest Silver Age additions. But I grew frustrated with the selection and was thinking about branching out.
It was at that time someone I knew recommended I try out a shop near my office. My work is about 25 miles away from my home, so I knew it would be different clientele and a different atmosphere, not to mention an entirely different comic buying experience. But I was looking to change things up, so one day at lunch I made the short drive over to Third Planet Sci-Fi Superstore on the Southwest Freeway, right in the middle of Houston. That was about 9 months ago. I haven’t been to another comic shop since.
On my first trip there, I was floored by the amount of inventory they had in their shop. It was more comics, novels, games, toys, movies, costumes, and figures than I had ever seen. For a store that bills itself as the oldest and largest comic store in Houston, they deliver and then some. Overwhelmed was how I would describe it. The owner, TJ, greeted me and gave a quick rundown of the layout of the place and set me free to explore. It was a long (loooooong) lunch that day, and I came away with a couple Daredevil issues and an old Journey Into Mystery #113 at an amazing price. As I checked out, he explained their pull box policy and gave me the paperwork to fill out.
My second trip to the shop was merely a formality. I did end up doing quite a bit of browsing and picked up a couple X-Men issues and a Punisher #1. But I truly just wanted to drop off my pull list paperwork. I was already hooked.
But if I was hooked by my second time there, I was smitten on my third trip. By the time I arrived back the next week for my third visit, TJ had already memorized my name, became familiar with the books on my list, and made recommendations based on items on the list. Considering they have almost 800 subscribers, I was impressed. On that trip, he also showed me “The Binders.” Third Planet must have 10,000 or more comics on hand in the store, but The Binders were a list of hundreds of thousands of more books they have filed at a warehouse that won’t fit in the store. Suffice it to say, if you are looking for it – they have it.
(Yes, even an Amazing Fantasy #15, which you can only pay for with cash.)
Over the past several months, I have been there countless times and enjoyed my time browsing almost as much as my conversations with TJ. If you ever see him, ask him about his bowling. He recently bowled his 100th perfect game!
Towards the end of March, however, Third Planet was forced to close its doors temporarily just like all other non-essential businesses in the Houston area. The area has been hit hard by Coronavirus and Third Planet was one of many that have had their business impacted by this horrible disease. Businesses were ordered closed by midnight on a Tuesday and I was disappointed because I had been working from home for several days and would not be able to make it the 25 miles out there for my books before the city essentially shut down. On a whim, I decided to call them on Tuesday evening and asked if there was any way they could mail out books that were sitting in my pull box. It was admittedly a longshot.
But I got a return call within a couple hours. They would be working late that night, but they not only said they would be happy to mail me my books, but she checked my pull box and went and found the books on my list that had just arrived that afternoon and made sure they would be included. I got them less than two days later (pictured on the left), including one that they graciously went and pulled for me that wasn’t on my list. It was simply amazing customer service in the midst of a crisis and I will never forget it.
I write about this story not because it is necessarily unique – I am sure many of you have similar stories from shops where you have relationships. I write about it because it is my story. And our stories are worth remembering. They are worth remembering because these shops need our help now more than they ever have. Third Planet still has an employee working at the shop from time to time to help with maintenance and inventory. They have made it known via their Facebook page they are happy to mail orders from their own homes to help out their customers. Maybe your LCS is providing a service like that. If they are, use it!
I know each of you has a story about your LCS. We want to hear about it. Share some love for your favorite LCS in the comments. And until we can get back in these shops, let’s do something for them since they do so much for us.
Third Planet Sci-Fi Superstore:
2718 Southwest Freeway, Houston, TX. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.third-planet.com/