When Eric Kirsammer bought Chicago Comics in 1991, five years after it had opened, he had a vision for the store.
“We set out to have the broadest possible selection in the city,” he said. “It’s a super hero driven industry, but there’s so much more out there that we offer.”
When Stage Left theatre vacated the space at 3244 N. Clark St., Kirsammer played superhero, moving a building in a single bound. He expanded the space farther back to display even more comics, toys and other items. Now, 20 years since that move, he’s looking to expand again.
“It’ll either be up or back, I don’t know what yet,” he said, adding that the expansion could come as soon as 2014.
There are shelves and drawers filled with comics that customers can browse. But underneath the store, there are hundreds of thousands of comics piled in boxes, posing a storage problem and a time issue.
“Sometimes we have customers ask for a comic and we say, ‘Sure, we’ll go find it.’ By the time we do, they might already be gone.”
But that bump in the road doesn’t keep Chicago Comics from being a popular choice. The industry has been growing for a number of reasons. New superhero blockbusters come into theaters every summer now, and popular TV shows like The Walking Dead have widened the audience. At the same time, larger merchants are selling comics, so competition is at an all-time high.
Kirsammer prides himself on making the store accessible to everyone. He didn’t have a love affair with comics until after college, which eventually led to his purchase of Chicago Comics. But there’s a growing kids section, and much more than books—there’s shirts, figurines, toys, gifts and lots more. The store is also known for carrying local, independent comics—some by artists who now have national recognition, such as Chris Ware and Jeff Brown, whose work is no longer with the indies but with the featured books in the front.
“We have stuff for all ages and all levels of familiarity with comics,” Kirsammer said. “We have customers who started here as kids and now they come back with their kids. It’s pretty cool.”
Besides getting more comics out of the basement and on display, that “other stuff” is the focus of the expansion. Kirsammer said he’d love to start collecting old toys and posters to sell in the store. He said it doesn’t necessarily have to tie in to comics, but would touch on that and other genres such as horror, sci-fi and fantasy.
“I think there’s a lot of people who might have these things and maybe they don’t want to hold onto them anymore,” he said. “I’d love to offer them here.”
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