Local Comics Store Spotlight: Secret Headquarters
The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek [...]
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.
Selling comics is about doing a lot with a little. The direct market is already a highly competitive niche making the entry of any new store risky. Every square foot and dollar must be used wisely in order to create a place that both effectively entices readers and presents a wide-range of comics. That daunting initial hurdle makes the success of Secret Headquarter with only about 500 square feet and $30,000 in startup funds all the more incredible.
Secret Headquarters opened in 2005 in Los Angeles, CA, a city already well-known for having an excellent array of comics shops. Yet the new store managed to quickly distinguish itself by focusing upon presentation above all else. If you walk into the store today, it's easy to see what makes it stand out from the crowd.
From the outside one could imagine this being an antiquarium of classic first editions or a cafe for scholars. Secret Headquarters is labelled across the glass in top-notch calligraphy and leather seats are most prominent behind it with shelves blurring against the reflection of the sun. It is clearly a location that takes itself and its product seriously, and that cover judgement holds up once you enter.
Everything from the wood floors to the lighting fixtures is carefully selected and makes one think of the phrase "spared no expense". There are no cardboard standees or longboxes sprawled out. Somehow every comic is given enough space to be presented for browsers and the collection of furniture and fixtures is all neatly designed. Where many stores become a collection of history building upon ephemera and knick knacks from publishers, this location has an identity that is entirely its own. Secret Headquarters is clearly a location that loves comics and seems to spare no expense on providing them a store worthy of that love. But the comics it provides and how it sells them are even more important.
Co-owners Dave Pifer and David Ritchie didn't own a comic book store due to the lucrative financial opportunity or aesthetic of running a swanky shop, they did it out of a love for comics. The look and feel of the store is a testament to that love and that's apparent based on the variety and quality of stories found across the shelves. In the weekly new releases readers of all stripes will find a home with the newest superhero titles or creator-owned hits or indie releases. This is to be expected of any comic book store worth its salt though; the real treasures lie deeper in the store across carefully organized shelves.
For every spot set aside for an Image Comics or Dark Horse Comics there is also space for a Retrofit Comics or Bergen Street Press. The selection of comics available might summon the term "hipster" to mind for some as it's unlikely that any reader will have seen even a majority of what's available on these shelves. Secret Headquarters provides an expansive selection of well-respected comics from all corners of the medium's creative landscape.
There's no one right type of customer at Secret Headquarters though. The emphasis on indie titles carefully curated from shows like the recently held Comics Arts Brooklyn (CAB) is to provide a significant source of variety. In the direct market certain genres and creators will always sell, but Secret Headquarters makes the effort to discover new voices and concepts that have yet to connect with a wide audience. The selection of titles available even in the relatively confined quarters of this shop are sure to remind readers of the best indie comics shows. How many other places can you spot recent darlings like Libby's Dad by Eleanor Davis and Canopy by Karine Bernadou side-by-side?
The staff of Secret Headquarters are equal opportunity sellers and reflect a set of taste and opinions as diverse as the comics they sell. There's no discrimination between a weekly warrior picking up new issues of Batman or an occasional comics reader checking out the newest winners of the Ignatz Awards. The shop is designed for comics fans of all stripes. All of the work and money placed into the decor isn't simply intended to lift up comics, but attract readers from every walk of life. People who already love comics can walk in and quickly recognize the store as a place that care. New readers are presented with a warm and discerning first impression. It's difficult to imagine walking in and leaving without first having wandered every inch of the store to see what it might offer.
Presentation is superficial, but it's what creates an entry point for comics readers, both current and soon-to-be, to find a new favorite book. That's something Secret Headquarters understands and what has allowed it to thrive in the competitive market of Los Angeles. By taking the business of comics seriously, they've created a serious customer based, one that continues to grow. The efforts placed into making a comics store look great may seem frivolous at first, but experience shows this is a model that other new stores might learn from in spreading their own love of comics.
Name: Secret Headquarters
Address: 3817 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Website: Secret Headquarters
Twitter: Secret Headquarters
Facebook: Secret Headquarter0comments