The thing about declaring certain businesses nonessential is that every business is essential to someone.
“I know comic books aren’t the most important thing right now,” says Brian Fudge, owner of Cosmic Comics, “but in my world, how I make my living, it is.”
Fudge and other owners of Las Vegas comic shops have had to adapt to quarantine life and find new ways to get their product to customers.
Maximum Comics owner Jay Bosworth introduced curbside delivery and even a home delivery service, although he had to halt the former when customers still wanted to hang out, talk and high-five employees at his three stores across the valley.
Even Maximum’s contactless home delivery — staffers seal the comics, leave them outside the customer’s home and text them when they’re done — encountered a few issues.
“Many people came out and greeted us,” Bosworth says, “and we were, like, ‘Hey, stay in your house! This kind of defeats the purpose.’ ”
John Dolmayan, owner of Torpedo Comics, 7300 Arroyo Crossing Parkway, is taking things a few steps further with a video concierge service that connects customers with his employees via their phones.
“They can actually go through the boxes, and if there’s something they’re interested in, the associate will pull it out for them. So they can literally go through every single item in our store if they want to,” Dolmayan says. “They can give you suggestions. They can tell you what not to buy.”
Dolmayan was making a living selling comics years before he opened the brick-and-mortar location in 2017. For him, the innovation is a way to keep his 12 employees on the job.
”So far, we haven’t had to lay anybody off, which is pretty rare in Vegas,” he said.
Maximum’s Bosworth wasn’t so lucky. He’s had to lay off “pretty much all” of his 13 employees.
“I promised all of them that, to the best of my ability, they’ll all be working back for me when this is done,” he says, adding that the $4.99 delivery fee and any tips go directly to the driver.
This isn’t Bosworth’s first brush with economic disaster. He opened the first location in 2007, shortly before the housing crisis. “But (that was) nothing like this where, just within a matter of weeks, it’s just gone from business as usual to what in the hell’s going on?”
Fudge at Cosmic Comics, 3830 E. Flamingo Road, isn’t sure what the future holds for the business he opened in 1996.
Even after starting curb deliveries to customers who pay online in advance, he says business has dropped “probably 80 percent.” Fudge has had to lay off two of his five employees and doesn’t know how long he can keep the others.
“I’m getting a $7,000 order in on Tuesday that I ordered three weeks ago that I have to pay for, and I have no (other) way to sell.”
Those orders won’t be coming much longer.
Diamond Comic Distributors, which has exclusive deals with almost every major comics company, announced Monday that it was suspending shipments of products with on-sale dates of April 1 or later.
Fudge says he expects many smaller stores to fail, and he may have to downsize when this is over.
“It isn’t necessarily if one store closes, I get their customers. It doesn’t happen that way,” he says. “If half the stores go under, is it even viable to continue making print comics anymore? There’s a lot of unknowns, a lot of questions.”