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Tuesday, August 25, 2020 

Specialty store in Erie, Pennsylvania succeeds in keeping business going despite pandemic

Here's an article on the Erie Times-News spotlighting a comics and games store in the northern Pennsylvania district, Books Galore, that's been able to keep their business going well enough despite what Covid19's led to:
A loyal customer base, a dedicated staff of six, financial help through the federal Paycheck Protection Program and an industry grant: They all combined to help the shop survive during and after the statewide shutdown of all non-life-sustaining businesses that started on March 19.

Books Galore offered curbside service at the end of May as restrictions eased. It welcomed mask-wearing customers inside the store on July 1, five days after Erie County entered the green phase on Pennsylvania’ reopening scale.

Business has recovered, Books Galore’s manager Cole Schenley said.

Sales in July, he said, “were a couple of hundred dollars better than in January,” two months before the COVID-19 outbreak hit.

“That’s pretty good,” Schenley said. “We’re taking it a day at a time. I am pleasantly surprised at how well things have gone.” [...]

The PPP loan helped Books Galore get by. So did a $1,800 grant that Books Galore received from the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which includes the Comicbook United Fund. [...]

Customers returned, eager to get comics that many had pre-ordered but could not read during the shutdown. Books Galore runs a club in which staff put members’ comics in folders for pickup. [...]

Even before the pandemic, Schenley said, the comics industry was fighting digital competition. He said Books Galore’s foot traffic has stayed strong.

“It is not the easiest business,” Schenley said. “But people still like physical stuff. We still have collectors and kids who like to get comics.”
I think it's great when a store's business can survive such a dire period. And I like physical books too, as they're much easier to read than an e-book on computer screens. But at the end of the article, there's one more little thing noted that, again, troubles me:
And the comics create an energy all their own. Schenley, a Batman fan, likes to talk about how the comics keep the customers coming back. The medium is built to foil the boredom and anxiety that the pandemic has wrought.
If the guy said he was a Superman fan, would the paper have mentioned this? Or, why must they always bring up so monumentally obvious a choice? Most of the people doing the writing on Batman these past several years, like Scott Snyder and Tom King, are little different from Brian Bendis in terms of contempt for the audience, so what's the use of bringing that up either? You'd think nobody was even a Spider-Man fan from reading these articles, since they don't specify whether the managers or their customers are big fans of those franchises either. I've lost count of how many mainstream articles I've read to date over the past decade citing Batman as the gigantically big thing above all else, and wonder how many more I'll find doing the same. This is simply not helpful, and in fact, it obscures a lot of smaller publishers and titles from various genres that could be just as enjoyable, maybe more so.

Also, I'm sure serial fiction has its advantages to foil boredom and anxiety, but only if the writing and art are good, to say nothing of the editing. So if the Big Two's titles are still selling laughable sales numbers at worst, you can't say their output's foiling much of anything but itself.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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