Despite coronavirus, Pulp Fiction Comics endures as a home for comic fans
August 4, 2020
Moving a business can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know that a global pandemic is about to shut down the entire industry supporting your shop.
The potential shutdown was the challenge faced by Pulp Fiction when it moved to its new location at 3925 East Anaheim Street in January 2020.
At the time, Pulp Fiction, owned by Matt Lerner, had just finished moving from its previous location at 1742 Clark Avenue. The main concern was whether the store’s customers would follow it to its new site.
“It was our first day here and [we thought] ‘Okay, we’re going to have to get people back into the swing of coming here and let people know that we’ve moved,’” Ryan Skinner, the store manager, told the Signal Tribune.
“Then we started hearing about the pandemic and we went ‘Okay, so we’re probably going to get shut down.’ We saw that on the horizon so we started getting ready for that.”
To prepare, Pulp Fiction looked at how other stores in the Bay Area and Northern California dealt with the COVID-19 shutdown. The store shifted to curbside pick-up and set up a system to run customers’ credit cards safely.
However, just as the store’s employees began to adjust, it ran into a new problem.
Diamond Comic Distributors, the sole distributor for comic books nationally, announced that it would not be shipping new issues due to the pandemic.
“That’s a big deal because that meant not only will we not be able to let people in the shop, [but] we were going to be stuck with whatever we already had in the shop for some indeterminate amount of time,” Skinner said.
“That indeterminate amount of time ended up being like 10 weeks or something like that.”
This news was a blow for many comic shops across the country. New issues are usually released on Wednesday every week, so with no new merchandise, some shops were forced to close their doors for good.
Fortunately for Pulp Fiction, the shop had always had a trade-in program for used merchandise, giving it a wealth of old issues and graphic novels.
To support its new business model, Pulp Fiction leaned heavily on social media to stay in touch with its customers. It hosted live streams on Facebook, where employees would promote daily sales and chat with customers in the comment section.
“It was very important for us to keep the community together because if you just let everybody forget about comic books for two months it’s harder getting [them] back in,” Skinner said.
Like many readers, Skinner found his love of comics after being introduced to comics like Watchmen, the Dark Knight Returns, and Sandman. Books like these showed him that comics don’t have to stick to traditional superhero stories.
Now he tries to help readers by finding comic series that speak to them on a personal level.
Skinner said shops are a place for fans to interact, and that it helps give comic book readers a “home.”
“When I see somebody that comes in the store for the first time, it’s important not only to make them feel welcome, but also make sure that they understand that in addition to [asking me] questions about comic books and stuff this is also a place where you can come and make friends, Skinner said.”
This sense of community has led a group of comic book writers and artists to join together to support shops like Pulp Fiction during the shutdown.
To raise funds for comic shops, Aftershock, an independent comic publisher out of Sherman Oaks, published a collection of stories from writers about their love of comic book stores.
The comic series was given free to comic book shops. Still, it gave stores something new to sell to customers who wanted to help keep their favorite hangout open for business.
The book, S.O.S. or “Support Our Shops,” contains stories about how comic shops shaped their love of comics. Many of the stories centered around the creators’ first time finding a shop or how store owners fostered a sense of community among fans.
“I got kind of choked up reading it,” Skinner said.
“When you hear a story about how ‘One day I walked into Pulp Fiction and it was a big deal that I’ll never forget,’ I hear that story and I think ‘cool, you made a difference in somebody’s life.”
Pulp Fiction is open seven days a week, Sunday-Tuesday the hours are 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Thursday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Their store is located at 3925 E Anaheim St, Long Beach, CA. Visit Pulp Fiction on their official Instagram @pulpfictionlongbeach.