The foundation of ComicBook.com is comics; while we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it.
If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.
This year on ComicBook.com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.
We might have become used to Batman and Spider-Man being regular features in movie theaters, but that doesn’t mean local comics shops have become a mainstream feature themselves. They are still specialty stores that cater to the unique interests and hobbies of a very diverse crowd. It is that specialization that prevents big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target from taking over their business. It’s also what makes collections like Fantasy Shop stand out for what they do so well.
Fantasy Shop is a brand that currently incorporates four storefronts all in the state of Missouri, including locations in St. Charles, Creve Coeur, Maplewood, and South County (the latter two of which occupy St. Louis). None of the four are more than 25 miles apart, but they each present a unique storefront to the customers in their neighborhood.
Scott Samson, manager of the South County location, says that “each has a different mix of product and leans into certain categories (both from a sales perspective and from a stocking perspective) further than our other stores.” Within this set of Missouri-based comics stores you can find the unique fascinations and passions of each neighborhood.
The very first Fantasy Shop opened in 1981, but its mindset and mission has had to drastically change over 35 years in business. At the start it was possible to attract customers by simply carrying what they wanted to find. When Dungeons & Dragons was just finding its following and “geek culture” really was underground, those fans just needed a place to find home. The culture has come a long way since then and so have the many Fantasy Shops of the Midwest.
All of the shops still aim to provide whatever fans need, but their goal has expanded. Samson says they intend on “being the place that people want to go even if they don't have buying something in mind.” When online retailers can minimize prices and maximize profits with a formula, a physical location has to offer more than great deal and backstock. That’s the key to what all of the Fantasy Shop locations do. They value a customer experience where someone leaves having spent nothing, but loving the story over the opposite. It’s as much about offering community as product now.
Click ahead to find out how Fantasy Shop has evolved over more than 3 decades of comics.