Riot Comics Closing

Riot Comics, the well-covered new store in Pennsylvania, is closing February 24.

RIOT is closing by choice and NOT by necessity. See, I’ve been offered one of those government jobs that would be foolish to refuse…with the easy 9-5 schedule, fully paid benefits, amazing retirement plan and unmatched networking opportunities.

This isn’t terribly surprising, given how Jason Richards, the proprietor, was talking about his struggles last June.

And the fact is, it’s not logical or smart to become a comic retailer. It’s a no-win situation, with too much dependence on one supplier, no recourse when publishers change contract terms to your disfavor, having to buy non-returnably too far in advance of sale period, too much product offered to you with too little information, a distributor who doesn’t care when they screw up, a catalog that doesn’t distinguish between retailers and end customers (because too many of the former think like the latter) and ultimately, over-reliance on a declining format (and usually a declining genre, the superhero comic). The retailer gets the short end of the stick from everyone.

The only people willing to do it have to be extremely stubborn to think they can succeed in the face of these factors and also have an excessive love either for the medium or one of the genres. That makes it difficult to take well-meaning advice, especially when stores and locations can be so different that what works for one person might not work for anyone else.

Of course, the private retailer forum erupted in a chorus of “told you so”. This wasn’t surprising, either, given Jason’s earlier departure from the group. The thread now has lots of good advice, but as happened before, the people who need it won’t see it. If you really want to help newcomers, “you’re not REALLY one of us, you’re just a hobbyist because you don’t use our methods of evaluating your success or have an employee” isn’t the way to phrase advice that will be listened to. Which is a shame, because the points were good, but they were presented in argumentative and hostile language that guaranteed they’d be ignored. (Some really seem upset that Jason criticized Civil War, too, as though saying Marvel’s plans weren’t ideal was a sin.)

You can see a little of the kind of thing I mean in this comment in Heidi’s thread on the news, calling Jason a “loudmouth” “hothead” who was “throwing tantrums”. I don’t understand the venom, myself. One of the more visible new comic stores is ending. Shouldn’t that be sad, instead of providing reason to celebrate over the corpse?

At the end, I sympathize. KC and I thought about trying to open a store, but, well, as Jason says:

There’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that I was so blissfully ignorant about, from scheduling problems to freight charges, marketing gimmicks to creator meltdowns, that I’d much prefer to just be a reader again.

James Sime credits Jason with giving other ideas and vision of what a store could be. I hope he’s right. I admired Jason’s passion.

Update: Jason continues to blog (link no longer available). In his latest post, he clarifies why he’s buying mail order: basically, good service and a method that better suits his needs, not the petty motivations competitors have attributed to him.


39 Responses to “Riot Comics Closing”

  1. Steve Says:

    While I agree it’s sad a comic book store is closing, it’s hard not to feel a little schadenfreude when someone who accuses everyone in the area of running their businesses wrong and failing to serve their customers goes out of business after only 18 months.

    I was the guy that posted that comment on Heidi’s site, and I stand by it. Most of the folks writing these glowing reviews of Jason’s shop never set foot in the place, nor did they visit in any of the competitors he was slagging in his early blog posts, nor did they know anything about the comics market here in central PA.

    There are several other shops already serving this area, and even before he opened, he immediately struck up an adversarial tone, with posts in his blog about how the other stores made fun of their customers, how they wouldn’t order what people wanted, how crappy their stores looked, how they never stocked indie titles and how he was going to be different, etc. etc. It was all the stereotypical criticism people throw at comic stores all the time and, on its face, it sounded true. If you aren’t from the area and aren’t familiar with some of the people running the other shops and how hard they’ve pushed and supported indie titles for years and how much money they’ve lost on said indie books, you’d think about how terrible they were. But none of Jason’s criticisms were true, at least not for all of the local shops… it was, as Stephen Colbert says, “truthy.”

    His attitude from the get-go was “I am right and you are wrong and don’t you dare tell me otherwise!” You could point to the ramen eating contest blowup on his blog, or the way he interacted with other retailers on that industry board as evidence, but the best example of this… one of his early blog posts when he was in the planning stages of opening his shop was about how he walked into a local comic shop and wanted to buy a book he read about over the internet, but the store didn’t have it. He posted a profanity-laced diatribe about how he wasn’t able to get this book and how terrible it was that this store didn’t serve his needs and fuck the stores that don’t carry what he wants. The economic realify of the situation is that no comic shop can afford to carry every book; Previews lists hundreds if not thousands of items every month. We can all agree on that, right? It’s common sense.

    As a result, most stores order the bread and butter superhero books they know they’ll sell, and order a smattering of the better-known indie books (proven titles like Love and Rockets, and stuff by other popular indie creators like James Kolchalka, and other indies by local guys) and maybe the occasionally oddball title that they know might sell. They also rely on input from their customers to know what they order. If a shop with hundreds of regular customers doesn’t hear a peep from anyone about an obscure indie title before it is released, they likely won’t gamble on it and instead will take the approach of trying to get a reorder of it if someone requests it. But rather than say, “Hey, I didn’t see that title on your rack, could you order it for me?” Jason instead ran home and posted a screed on his blog about how he can’t get indie books at the local store and fuck them all.

    Never mind a few months after opening Riot, the tone of his blog changed from stressing his indie cred to selling the superheroes just like all the other local shops that he was slamming just a few months prior. The telling line in his post yesterday was about how he’ll be buying his comics through mail order from now on. You know why? He’s too ashamed to set foot in the other local stores and admit face-to-face to his competitors that maybe their approach to the comics business wasn’t as wrong as his early posts on his blog suggested.

  2. John Says:

    The owner of my local comic shop is talking about shutting down after 14 years of business. He’s tired of the long hours, and the variable, unpredictable income. He claims that he’s actually looking forward to a 9 to 5 job so that he can haev a life.

    He’s actually opened a second store temporarily to sell all the back issues he’s accumulated, which amounts to dozens, and dozens of boxes. I walked into the place and saw him standing amongst this field of comics, and he said, “see this? This is all money out of my pocket.”

    I do what I can to support his shop, because he is a local fixture of our community. He does a lot to be an active part of the community, and holds events that get new people to take a look at comics. He knows his stuff, and is really helpful, and without his store our downtown would be a sadder place.

    He’s also a supporter of local talent, so it would be a shame to see him go.

    After several years of discussing the business with him, I can see what a challenge it truly is.

    Comic stores are unique and fun to visit. It’s always a shame to see one go.

  3. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    I actually did go visit Riot in person, a couple of weeks after it opened, and thought it was a great setup. Jason’s inventory was still a little light at that point, but the space had a very open, welcoming feel (one my wife and our non-comics friends who came with us appreciated) and the selection he did have was diverse enough that fans of any type could have found something to buy. He even had the original Bumperboy mini-comics, which I immediately snatched up.

    While he might not have gotten off on the right foot with his competitors, he publicly admitted when he stepped over the line on at least a couple of occasions, and apologized for disparaging them. He was trying to run an upstart business in an area that could use another alternative, and while his background in advertising may have made him come off as something of a carnival barker, his motives were laudable.

    While reality forced him to shift some of his attention to the inescapable bread-and-butter of Marvel and DC, that shouldn’t be seen as something to rub in his face but rather yet another disturbing example of why the direct market model is limiting the potential growth of the industry. Great for Diamond, Marvel and DC, not so much for any other publisher or readers who would like to read more than spandex soap operas.

    Regardless of what you think of Jason personally (or professionally), Riot’s passing is something to be mourned not celebrated.

  4. Alex Says:

    “While reality forced him to shift some of his attention to the inescapable bread-and-butter of Marvel and DC, that shouldn’t be seen as something to rub in his face but rather yet another disturbing example of why the direct market model is limiting the potential growth of the industry”

    That says nothing about all direct market shops.

    It only speaks to the buying habits of his local market.

    Let’s not do the baby/bathwater thing here.

  5. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    Alex: Perhaps. I’m not terribly familiar with the Camp Hill / Harrisburg market, but a quick Google Maps search turns up several of the usual chains, a few Christian bookstores and what appears to be a handful of independent bookstores. (Though, oddly, not Riot.) It could either mean Riot hadn’t found its audience yet, or as you assert, there simply wasn’t enough of one to support his vision.

    I still believe that Diamond/Marvel/DC are doing more harm than good when it comes to the potential growth of the industry, though. As Johanna pointed out, there are a lot more reasons not to open a comic book store than there are to open one, and over time I’ve come to agree with Brian Hibbs that the industry needs more stores if it wants to thrive.

  6. Steve Says:

    Guy, I’ve been following Jason’s blog for a while, and I don’t recall him ever apologizing for disparaging his competition; I remember him removing a bunch of his posts and/or closing comments when the other local stores found out about him and started posting on his blog, though.

    Could you point me to one or two of those apologies? Otherwise, I’ll be calling bullshit on that. Thanks.

    I think you did hit the nail on the head with the “carnival barker” remark, and maybe I’m a little harsh in my assessment of Jason, but I just feel like he’s got so much positive press as a result of his own carnival barking to the point where the hype and hyperbole surrounding his store is a little ridiculous. “Undeniable impact on the future of comics retail that will be felt for decades?” Jesus Christ, whoever wrote that should just cut out the middle man and give Jason a sloppy hour-long blowjob!

    Meanwhile, the other shops in the area are treated like they’re assholes and the various unfounded charges Jason leveled at them go largely uncontested because his competitors aren’t part of the hipster comics blogging community, probably because they’re too busy running their successful businesses and serving their local customers rather than drumming up good national press from people who don’t even live here and didn’t spend money at his store.

  7. Joe Rice Says:

    I got banned from Richards’ site permanently for suggesting that holding an eating contest near his stock wasn’t the best idea. I wish him well in his further pursuits, but the man made the backlash he got himself.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Steve, please watch the language. Which store in the area are you associated with? I’m assuming you must be, because you seem to be taking all this personally.

    Even though I’ve never been in Riot, I appreciated Jason for selling me some hard-to-find comics via mail at a fair price. He went far beyond many of the physical stores I’ve dealt with.

  9. Steve Says:

    Sorry about the language. Feel free to edit those posts if it was too objectionable.

    I’m not affiliated with any local store. I am friends with several local shop owners, but I’m not going to name their stores in the context of this discussion because my opinions in no way reflect theirs, and I don’t represent them or speak for them.

    It took offense at those attacks on my friends’ shops because, as Jason found out, comic retail is a a tough enough business without that kind of petty sniping going on between competitors.

  10. James Sime Says:

    “Jesus Christ, whoever wrote that should just cut out the middle man and give Jason a sloppy hour-long blowjob!”

    That would be me, Steve. As someone who is so obviously upset about other folks behavior on-line, you’re not exactly setting a shining example yourself.

    Richards may have made some bone-headed mistakes, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that many of the wanna-be retailers I’ve spoken to over the past few years were reading his blog and are no doubt going to be influenced by his shop.

  11. Dale Says:

    Richards may have made some bone-headed mistakes, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that many of the wanna-be retailers I’ve spoken to over the past few years were reading his blog and are no doubt going to be influenced by his shop.
    Comment by James Sime 02.03.07 @ 10:03 pm

    You say that like its a good thing.

    Decades? Are you serious?

    While he might not have gotten off on the right foot with his competitors, he publicly admitted when he stepped over the line on at least a couple of occasions, and apologized for disparaging them.
    And, yes, Guy, please show us the posts where Jason apologized… I don’t recall seeing those either. Seriously, please provide the links.
    Dale

  12. Dale Says:

    Steve, please watch the language. Which store in the area are you associated with? I’m assuming you must be, because you seem to be taking all this personally.

    Even though I’ve never been in Riot, I appreciated Jason for selling me some hard-to-find comics via mail at a fair price. He went far beyond many of the physical stores I’ve dealt with.
    Comment by Johanna 02.03.07 @ 4:00 pm

    And hey howcome you don’t ask which store a poster is associated with when they’re on your side of the debate?

    A reporter? I don’t think so. More like a stenographer.
    Dale

  13. Johanna Says:

    Ah, I see yet another someone has decided the best way to reform the online behavior of others is to sink to the bottom themselves, with insults.

  14. Steve Says:

    That would be me, Steve. As someone who is so obviously upset about other folks behavior on-line, you’re not exactly setting a shining example yourself.

    What do you expect? It’s an honest reaction to the fawning praise the comics blogging community has been heaping on Jason since day one. It is completely ridiculous how everyone on the internet fell over Jason’s shop as if it were the second coming, and now have started to mourn the loss of it as if he were Princess Diana. Your essay in particular was so full of positive spin I’m surprised you didn’t get dizzy while you were writing it. His “lucrative” job he’s taking? His “passionate” customer base? (Do you even know any of his customers?) “The successful completion of a mission?” Yeesh.

    He didn’t “succeed in his mission” because his mission was to run a comic shop and make a living at it, which he never did. Anyone can open a shop like Jason’s with the money he spent to start it. It’s not a great business accomplishment to come up with a snazzy logo, Ikea bookshelves, a well-written blog and lots of internet fans (who are too far away to be regular customers). The real accomplishment is keeping it running!

    Richards may have made some bone-headed mistakes, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that many of the wanna-be retailers I’ve spoken to over the past few years were reading his blog and are no doubt going to be influenced by his shop.

    Well, I would hope that anyone who was influenced by Jason would learn from his giant mistakes, not the least of which was annoying the loyal customers of his competitors to the point where they wouldn’t set foot in his shop and were actively cheering for his demise.

  15. Tommy Says:

    I think those people who open comic book shops with the idea that they will be able to make a fancy fine living off of it are for the most part uninformed fans of the medium. I have been tracking trends and looking at numbers for years in the hopes that I would one day open my own shop and I know the only way to keep a comic book shop open and successful is to really truly love what you’re selling. It looks like a lot of the newer retailers were not victims of the multiple over foil embossed glow in the dark edible cover craptacular of the 90’s. Either that or their memories are extremely short. The way I see this business is a labor of love. It’s kind of like a marriage. Better or worse till death and all that. I know there are a million reasons not to open a store that sells to a fickle and quickly angered core audiance but there is one reason that trumps all of them to do it. I love comics. The good retailers will feel the same way.

  16. Johanna Says:

    People liked what Jason was saying for several reasons:
    1. Everyone’s seen the kind of crappy shop he said he didn’t want to be. Whether or not his characterizations of his competitors were accurate, the kind of store he was describing does exist, and they aren’t good for the medium.
    2. People appreciated his honesty. He told us his thoughts and his struggles. Sometimes I think he would have been better off not saying as much, but I value the experience and knowledge he shared.
    3. His design sense was amazing. I wish I’d had the chance to visit the store, because it looked gorgeous.
    4. He was living the dream so many people have. Dreams have to end, unfortunately, but for a while, many people wanted to be him.

    I don’t understand why you care so much, Steve, whether or not he was overpraised. The idea of people in the area “cheering his demise” is really really sad. How pathetic, that they’d wish for a diverse comic store to go under.

  17. Steve Says:

    I don’t understand why you care so much, Steve, whether or not he was overpraised.

    You don’t think truth and fairness have value? Accusing other comic shops of being like that comic book guy from the Simpsons doesn’t do anything to promote comics, though it did promote Jason Richards.

    How pathetic, that they’d wish for a diverse comic store to go under.

    And there’s the rub. You and most of the other people writing about Jason’s store have absolutely no idea how diverse the other shops in the area are, nor do you have any idea how many thousands of dollars these other stores have spent supporting titles that don’t sell just because they like them, because all you know about the stores around here is what Jason reported on his blog. And, not surprisingly, what he wrote about was directly geared at hyping his shop.

    I do agree that he was “living the dream” of opening a comic store. And I do think that offering a diverse selection of comics is important, but that needs to be balanced with a dose of market reality and that includes buying and stocking genre stuff like Marvel and DC, particularly if you’re in not in a large metropolitan area like NYC or Seattle.

    I think it’s a popular fantasy that if you build this kind of indie-friendly store that people, particularly non-comics readers, will come out of the woodwork to buy comics, and that attitude is precisely that… a fantasy. The problems the comic market has cannot be solved by adding a lounge, a cute logo and Ikea bookshelves.

    And you cannot serve your customers or promote indie books if your store is closed.

  18. Johanna Says:

    What you’re doing resembles an after-the-fact smear campaign, which gives the contrary impression to “fighting for truth and fairness”. Whether or not other shops were good or not isn’t the issue. Jason’s shop was, and it looks like you’re dancing on the corpse.

  19. Steve Says:

    Whether or not other shops were good or not isn’t the issue.

    Of course that’s the issue! The entire impetus for him opening his “different, indie-friendly” store was to provide an alternative to the stereotypical Android’s Dungeon style shop that he portrays his competition to be, and why he was cheered on by folks like you that didn’t know any better.

    Look, if he had just opened his shop without the smears, I wouldn’t have had any issue with him. I am all for alternatives and more shops and a growing comics business. That’s all great, good for comics, good for business in general.

    Reading his blog, though, he perpetually set up this stereotype of the crappy local comic shop, one which sounds true enough if you don’t live around here and patronize his competition, all of which served the marketing of his shop as somewhere special. Lots of people bought into that hype, and now I’m telling you to be a little bit more critical about what you read and you’re suggesting I’m smearing him.

    Jason’s shop was [good].

    Again, how do you know how good his shop was? You were never there.

    What you’re doing resembles an after-the-fact smear campaign, which gives the contrary impression to “fighting for truth and fairness”.

    It may look like a smear when compared to the non-critical, non-investigative hosannahs he’s received from all the internet indie folks cheering for him to stick it to the stereotypical comic book guys, but it just isn’t.

  20. Johanna Says:

    What you’re doing, Steve, is coming very close to calling anyone who liked the idea of Jason’s shop ignorant (“didn’t know any better”), and you need to stop now.

    My opinion that Jason’s store closing is a loss has no bearing on any regional competition, whether they were good or bad. I applauded what he was trying to do — build and stock the kind of comic shop he, and people like me, want to shop in. What he may or may not have said about any other stores in the area had no bearing on what I thought about the store. I loved the design, I appreciated the kind of books he sold, and when I dealt with him as a retailer through the mail, I got good product and great service. (Thus, the basis for my earlier comment.)

    And you’re not listening when people tell you that your comments look like overreactions and you’re more likely to change readers’ opinions about you than about any regional stores, which no one knows the name of anyway because you won’t say. You can’t defend them if you won’t name them. Continuing to say “yay” about a good store closing is only going to reflect on you.

  21. Steve Says:

    Well, Johanna, I don’t think it’s at all unfair to suggest that you and many others are ignorant about running a comic shop and about the comics market here in central PA, as are a lot of people. Nothing inherently bad about not knowing anything about such arcane subjects, unless you leverage that ignorance into making statements that have little basis in reality… like

    My opinion that Jason’s store closing is a loss has no bearing on any regional competition

    On the internet, everyone with a blog and a lot of free time is suddenly an expert.

  22. Johanna Says:

    Just FYI, I spent two years studying comic retailing, from working part-time in local stores to beginning to write a business plan, before concluding it was the wrong choice for us. But given your last statement, where’s *your* blog? Because you sure seem to have the free time to keep saying unthinking things. Be quiet now.

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  24. Lyle Says:

    Steve, you’re not helping your case at all by arguing against points that aren’t being made. Saying that it’s unfortunate a store that had admirable ideals couldn’t make it isn’t the same as saying that the area is now bereft of any worthwhile stores. Commenters here have acknowledged that they might have limited knowledge of the area, but that doesn’t stop them from missing a store that they patronized from long-distance (due to the store’s online presence) and hoped to patronize in person someday. You keep seeing what people say into something different and argue against that, it’s not helping the case you’re trying to make.

  25. scott h Says:

    you know, comics fans can be a fickle lot as a whole. as much as i, and many others, wish that it werent so, the fact of the matter is that most comics buyers dont buy indies, and dont care about a cool shop. if even half of what steve is saying is true, then i can hardly find it surprising that jason rubbed him and others the wrong way with his hype. and i can also understand hard feelings over the blogosphere fawning over him like they have, and as a regular reader of many comics sites and blogs i would testify that he has indeed been fawned over.

    i can also see where there may have been some jealousy. the dudes shop was beautiful and i would have loved to visit it if i ever happened to be in the area. would i have bought my comics there? i dont know.

    i live in Kansas City, and we have roughly 7 large comic shops in the greater metropolitan area, and few hole in the wall types of places as well. 3 are owned by the same man. he opened one of his stores directly across the street from Kansas City’s oldest comic shop. a shop i used to spend 2 hours on the bus each way to get to 23 years ago when i was 14 and couldnt drive. it was, and is a shop that is beloved by many, many comics fans in the area and most retailers are jealous of his massive sell through, bottom line, and incredible back issue stock. when the other guy opened up across the street from him it was ostensibly because the other shop didnt carry hip new indie stuff and manga. guess what? alot of the stuff he opened up claiming the area needed is still on his shelves. and alot of fans locally wont visit any of his shops due to the a-holeish nature of opening up right across the street from another store. (if anyone cares to read a decent article about the situation and the Kansas City comics scene in general, of which i am happy to say i am a part of, you can find it here http://www.pitch.com/Issues/2003-04-24/news/feature.html
    )

    anyway, i digress slightly, but the point is, in a world of MARVEL SUCKS!! NO SCREW YOU DC SUCKS!!!, is it really all that surprising when some bad blood erupts? not to me, not in my experience. i also think steve makes very valid points. i dont see any grave dancing, i see someone pointing out that he didnt really close of his own volition. he wasnt making enough money to support his lifestyle, otherwise, why the government job? and the fact that he wont be supporting his former competitors obviously shows that he is bitter towards them. if he was such a sweetheart his attitude might more reflect, “i gave it a good run guys, but it didnt work out, can you order these books for me that i want out of previews like everyone else has to do?”

    but for me, the bottom line of where i shop comes down to dollars. i dont care how cool and beautiful your shop is, i dont care what you put on the shelves. as i said, i order what i want out of previews. i dont know any retailers in my area that will leave money in my pocket if they can get me what i want. what matters to me is the discount i get for ordering x amount of books. it is jjust an economic reality for me. comics are expensive and i am on a limited income as far as what i can spend on my comics. fortunately, i have not yet been priced out to a mail order, and i hope that never happens. visiting the folks at my shop is one of the highlights of my week. but when mainstream comics hit 3.50 or 4 bucks a pop, i will unfortunately be forced to evaluate the situation again. as it stands, with shipping costs, my savings would be minimal at this point.

    iit is to bad riot is closing. in a dream world, i would like to see evry shop like his. but the reality is, if you want to keep the doors open, you have to cater to Marvel/DC fanboys (and girls), and do what you can for your indie fans. unfortunately, comics fans like jason, and others whom i like to consider myself akin to, are a small minority in an already small minority.

    forgive my rambling and punctuation please, i am an artist, not a writer and i suck at typing :)

    Love to all, Scott

  26. Johanna Says:

    Scott, I’m only going to address one point in your post. You said “the fact that he wont be supporting his former competitors obviously shows that he is bitter towards them.” I disagree. If the store I work at occasionally went out of business, I’d go to mail order, too, and it’s not because I’m bitter towards the other local stores. It’s because, as you say, the bottom line is dollars. If you’re used to getting 35-55% off of comics (depending on the store’s discount level), you’re only going to come close to that through mail order these days.

  27. scott h Says:

    i can understand that, but that is the way it comes off. im just saying.

  28. Johanna Says:

    This becomes the point at which, if we continue, we’re arguing about what he implied and what you inferred. I don’t think it comes off that way, myself.

  29. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    Does anyone have links to the posts that the Riot guy supposedly made about other stores? Because the characterization of those posts doesn’t match my memory of them at all. It’s kind of dumb to ask Guy to supply sources when the original argument isn’t sourced. If they were deleted, can someone who doesn’t have a hate on support the characterization?

    As to the notion that Riot! was overpraised, I’m kind of unclear on that, too. There was a series of articles on a very superhero-centric store in Muncie, Indiana that exhibited many of the same qualities that are supposedly so objectionable about the blogosphere’s coverage of Richards’ store, except that they appeared on Newsarama and therefore probably had about 10 times the readers, and they weren’t from damn comics elitists or whatever.

    I thought the Muncie series and the Richards stuff were interesting despite having no use for either store because they were both providing insight into a process we’re not used to seeing. Support of those insights doesn’t mean you support their implicit criticism of stores like The Comic Store in Lancaster, PA or Bob’s Comic Castle in Muncie — that’s absurd. Saying that anyone who wrote about it supported Jason Richards’ characterizations of his competitors is equally insane unless someone wrote a post that said, “I support Jason Richards’ characterizations of his dumb-ass competitors because they clearly suck” or something like that.

  30. James Sime Says:

    Does anyone have links to the posts that the Riot guy supposedly made about other stores? … If they were deleted, can someone who doesn’t have a hate on support the characterization?
    I’ve been reading his blog for a very long time, and I’ll support that characterization. Richards *did* write at least one fairly uncharitable post about the stores in his area. But it *was* back before he had opened up a shop of his own. Once he got Riot underway he realized how unprofessional it was to have on his shop’s website, deleted the post from his archive, and wrote an apology.

    Now I can’t speak for Richards behavior off-line, but as a retailer who owns a shop myself I didn’t think that one post from Richards was particularly scathing. If he had said those things about my shop, I probably wouldn’t *like* the guy, but his comments certainly wouldn’t have hurt mine or my staff’s feelings. And certainly none of it made me think that Camp Hill was full of “crappy stores.” Perhaps when you combine that post with Richards off-line behavior you get a different picture, I honestly don’t know.

    So while Steve may have acted fairly obnoxiously on-line himself, he definitely has a point.

    Which dove-tails nicely into *my* point… In the past two years I’ve talked to literally hundreds of people considering opening up new comic stores in this country and others. A very large percentage were regular readers of Riot’s blog. The insights gained from watching Richards working through the process will no doubt prove invaluable for many. And that goes for both his successes *and* his bone-headed mistakes.

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  32. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    “I’ve been reading his blog for a very long time, and I’ll support that characterization. Richards *did* write at least one fairly uncharitable post about the stores in his area. But it *was* back before he had opened up a shop of his own. Once he got Riot underway he realized how unprofessional it was to have on his shop’s website, deleted the post from his archive, and wrote an apology.”

    Thanks.

    I have no idea why comments made before he started his store would have any bearing on appraisals of his ethical conduct as a retailer.

  33. Adam Geen Says:

    I was reading Jason’s blog from the beginning as well. More due to the fact that I was thinking of starting up a comic store a few years down the road.

    And I’d have to agree with Tom. I don’t ever recall reading about him badmouthing the other stores.

  34. James Sime Says:

    Here’s that Act of Contrition post that people have been looking for. Interesting to note that it went up 9 days before he even opened his shop’s door.

    “I have no idea why comments made before he started his store would have any bearing on appraisals of his ethical conduct as a retailer.”

    Personally, I couldn’t agree more.

    However, as it was still in his blog archives several weeks after his store was open and blog was discovered by the press, I can see that some people might not make that distinction.

  35. James Sime Says:

    Oops… rather:

    “However, as it was still in his blog archives after his blog was discovered by the press, I can see that some people might not make that distinction.”

    My bad!

  36. Johanna Says:

    At Heidi’s blog, a commenter points out that, according to the Small Business Administration, “most of the businesses that close up in the first 5 years do so for reasons other than profitability, such as drastic illness, better opportunities, being sick of working a 60-80 hour week and just wanting some health insurance and vacation time, etc.” Sounds like the case here. He also provides some reasons comic shops might have it more difficult than other kinds of small businesses.

  37. Jeremy Says:

    I find it really interesting the comments on this Blog about Riot, and I just want to throw my two cents in.

    First off, I am a retailer in the Harrisburg area, but not in the comics field. I have been working for the same independent retailer for 14 years and have been running the store for about 11 of those years. I have also been collecting comics for the better part of 27 years. I know the area, I know retailing, I know my comics, and most importantly for this blog I’ve been following the whole saga with an odd combination of amusement and amazement.

    Riot failed (I don’t care how it’s spun by either side, if it was a success he would have hired someone else to run it and still taken the new job) for a lot of reasons, but Jason was the crux of all of them. His initial plan of independent-heavy product mix would work elsewhere, but not in Harrisburg; The regional pie is just not that big. The best thing I hope future comics shop owners use from Jason is his flair for visual presentation: his logo, store design, flyers, commercials, et al, were fantastic. He knows his advertising. Unfortunately, much like the chromium collectable comics of the late eighties and early nineties, the substance was lacking. And his plans had fatal flaws.

    First: location location location! We all know that is the number one on any retailer’s list. Jason chose a strip center in a graying section of town. The shopping district is moving away from that center.

    Second: The competition. Jason failed to notice that his geographical main competition was moving from a mall that was graying to a section of town where a large amount of housing and retail shops were being built. That should have been a sign, because that is where the money is going. Also, to any of you planning on starting a business, do not ever bad mouth the competition by name in print when you are in a small field. You might need their help someday.

    And yes, there is a really bad store in this area. I was there ONCE and am sooooo glad I don’t have to shop there. But concentrate on making your own store better, not proclaiming how bad other stores are.

    Third: Never, EVER insult your customers!!! He had several blogs where he talked about being mean to people looking around in his shop and not buying anything or trying to sell baseball cards, etc. Those were people inside his store! That’s half the equation right there! Give that guy with the unruly daughter a copy of Amelia Rules, for Christ’s sake!!! If the daughter likes it, you’ve got sales. If not, at least she’ll stop jumping on your couch. If you need to vent, don’t vent where your customer can read it.

    The most amazing of these type of posts was (June 26, 2006) “Just an odd aside: In the last year, I’ve encountered more people who reek of marijuana than I have in my entire life. And it’s like they think that you can’t smell it on them. But it’s not just the smell. They forget where they set stuff down. They talk nonsense to you as if their lives depended on it. They get really defensive about things. They ask questions and then interrupt as you try to answer them. It’s kinda funny. At least they spend money here, right?” I’m sure they didn’t spend money there after that comment, and if I was a regular at Riot, that might make me stop. And if I had a kid going there, they wouldn’t shop there either after that.

    Forth: We all have freedom of speech, but we shouldn’t say everything we think. I know this goes with the comment above, but I think this is something a lot of people have a hard time with in the new computer age. Is it really so hard not to write about the fact you are stealing wireless from the nearby school on your blog! (July 18, 2006). And if you are a retailer, DO NOT GET A MYSPACE PAGE WITH YOUR NAME ON IT!!!!!! After reading his Riot Blog and Myspace account, I would not hire Jason, nor did I shop his store after my one visit. His postings show a lack of maturity and an overall creepiness that makes me uncomfortable. Like “comic book store guy” creepy. You know, what he was accusing others of being.

    As for the feeling that what he said before he opened the store having no bearing on business ethics, excuse me but what planet are YOU living on? Again, if someone called my business practices into question or said my business was no good, then opened the same type of business, taking food off my table, I’d be pissed. And if you are that forgiving, I am REALLY impressed.

    Fifth: Where was the positive outlook? He spent so much of his time bitching on his blog most people weren’t clamoring for his demise, just betting he would fail. He finally DID address this, but by then it was far too late. If all you do is complain, people will leave to hang around someone else. And if you trying to sell them comics, they will either buy somewhere else (bad for you) or quit comics altogether (bad for us all).

    Sixth: Keep financials between you, any partner you may have, and your accountant. Now IF his blog was for industry-only types, I wouldn’t have a problem with this (and I wouldn’t know about any of this), but no good can happen from Joe Consumer knowing how much money your store is taking in. Either they will think the sales figures are too high and you should be giving him a discount (or bigger one), or they will think they are too low and figure you will be going out of business soon. And those pot-smokers he was talking about could have mugged him.

    And by the way, if he had given out MY sales figures, I would have sued his @$$ so fast, and I’m not even in the same industry.

    Seventh: Know your limits. Jason was great at making his store look awesome and his ads nice. But he was a terrible salesman (I experienced that first hand), and if he had a good employee handle the sales and he was able to spread the advertising at his opening over several months, he might be keeping that store open. He did have great connections with the press from his former advertising job, and he did very well with getting coverage. But in the end enough people just didn’t shop there, for whatever reason.

    Finally, if you are starting a business and someone tells you an idea is really bad, find out why they think it is a bad idea. Learn from other people’s mistakes, so you don’t repeat them. Apparently, a lot of people who had experience in the field tried to help Jason with some points about running a comics store and he disagreed with them to the point it was some kind of tempest in a teapot. I am 36 years old with 17 years of experience in my field, and if someone with 20 years of experience I’m wrongheaded with a business idea, I listen to them. If no one in an area is doing something, it might just be they tried the very same idea and it didn’t work for them, so they adjusted. And if someone very successful in my field tells me something, I listen VERY carefully and take notes.

    In the end, the shop a frequent IS indie friendly (and always has been), and the sketches framed on my office walls prove it! I wish Jason nothing but the best, and I hope my meager contribution is seen as constructive criticism, and I hope he has learned a lot about business.

    Anyway, sorry for being so long-winded, and thanks for reading! (and keep reading comics!!!)

  38. shadow Says:

    While I agree that the “idea” of Mr. Richards ideal comic shop was good, the execution was horrible.
    For those of you who never visited his store, the reality “on the ground” and what was posted on his blog never quite lined up. Jason was only friendly to people that shared HIS interests and dared not question his point of view. I know that when I walk into a LCS and spend 200$ I do not expect to be insulted as to my tastes and told that my comic related OPINIONS are bullshit. I also can speak firsthand that IN STORE Jason insulted his competitors by name on a regular basis, to the point that I could no longer frequent his store even though it was two blocks from my house. Many other collectors I know who happened into RIOT were very turned off by the lack of attention/interest Jason showed, spending the majority of his time on his laptop. I am also quite offended that Jason is soooo thrilled that he will not be taking a loss because “The Federal Government will be paying 80%” if he defaults on his loan which is lovely were it not for the fact that the money will be coming out of mine and other taxpayers pockets and I don’t think this is something to be bragged about. I have lots more to say but I think I’ll shut up now and in closing say , it could not have happened to a more deserving fellow.

  39. Greg Says:

    I’ve been too many comic store’s in the area, and even though it my not have had the best selection, I was always treated much better at riot than any other comic store i went to. Jason constantly recommended comics for me to read according to the comix he knew i liked to read. Hell, the last time i went to comix connection i waited for 15 minutes to ask a question because the only employee there was talking on the phone, and wouldn’t end his convosations for 5 seconds to answer a question.




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