“Time to Figure Out the Next Thing”: A Conversation with Books with Pictures’ Katie Proctor

Everyone is in a tough place because of the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of position or industry. But the direct market in comics is in a particularly difficult position, if only because every facet of the chain is impacted. Supply. Distribution. Sales. You name it. When stores can’t even be open and the main distributor is closed up for the time being, the whole thing gets wonky.

Later today, I’ll have a piece going up that features eight comic retailers sharing their perspectives on the state of things for the direct market right now – amongst other topics – but as I was putting that piece together, one retailer preferred just getting on the phone for a chat. Katie Proctor, the owner of Portland, Oregon’s Books with Pictures, was rather busy on Friday. That makes sense given that everything went bananas that day when DC announced it was getting back in action by distributing through the two biggest comic retailers (DCBS and Midtown Comics) and Diamond Comic Distributors revealed they were aiming to return to action by mid to late May. So there was a lot to cover.

The following is that conversation, as Proctor and I had a sprawling chat about how her life and her shop have been affected by the coronavirus, DC’s decision, DCBS and Midtown’s position in all of this, and a whole lot more. It’s a great chat – and one that has been edited for clarity – with one of the best in the business, and I want to thank Proctor for taking the time to talk with me.

Also, if you enjoy content like this, remember to come back in a little bit for more with a slew of other retailers, and maybe consider subscribing to SKTCHD, as it’s subscriptions that power this site and its no ads, only content setup.

I guess the starting point is how you’re doing as an individual. How are you handling all of this?

Katie: I’m okay. I’m healthy. My folks are healthy. They are quarantined two miles away from me. I definitely have a big enough network that I’m starting to see people get sick. I’m starting to see people get sick with this and that’s scary, but it’s still… I’m fine. My kids are fine. And that’s important.

My staff is fine. I sent my staff all home, now, a month ago. My manager, who’s my full-time staff member, lives with a 90-year-old woman and I’m like, no. You need to go home and stay home and just don’t leave. I feel very protective of them. I’ve still been able to keep paying them, which feels important because Oregon does not appear to be doing very well with the massive stress on its unemployment system. People who applied for five weeks ago are still not seeing checks. That’s not good. So I feel really glad that I’m able to keep paying them and take care of them as best I can from here. But I haven’t had a day off since before then. At all. So, yeah. I think like all of us, I’m not sleeping great. I’m stressed. It’s all that stuff. But… yeah. I feel alright.

The front of Books with Pictures

I think one of the interesting things about Books with Pictures is in your new situation, you live on top of the shop, right? Basically?

Katie: Yes. So my shelter in place is at work. I am here all the time. We’re on a pretty busy street and so I had a group of teens go by the other day and I heard one of them say, “God, she’s in there all the time.” I just felt in my soul.

You’re like, “I literally live here!”

Katie: Yeah. Truth. But yeah. I’m working a lot. Which is so much better than not being able to work at all.

I guess everybody who’s working from home, which is basically everybody at this point, has this to a certain degree, but it is interesting that you effectively live within your shop. I imagine that kind of changes it. Because the boundaries aren’t really there in a way that most comic shop owners do have.

Katie: Well, and the boundaries haven’t been there for a year now. In some ways, that’s normal. The difference is that I can’t be like, oh, it’s Thursday. I don’t work on Thursdays. And roll over and put a pillow over my head. And the kids are home full-time and that’s different. But they’re awesome. The kids being around may be strongest in the category of interesting rather than bad or stressful. There’s a lot of positives to it. I like having them around. They’re great. My son has been really learning how to do little business shop tasks and has been increasingly helpful. He’s 10 and he likes to be useful. But the kinds of jobs I am doing for the shop right now are not really conducive to 10-year-old help so that’s kind of a bummer.

Yeah. Especially when you’re on delivery. Unfortunately, six years too young to drive.

Katie: Yes. He is too young to help me with deliveries, but he’s also… With the exception of literally “this is a custom shop order for a 10-year-old who likes Minecraft, can you help me pick books for them,” which happens. With the exception of those, he’s not super useful for the custom shopping stuff. It’s true.

When it comes to Books with Pictures though, you were talking before we started recording about how your brain is adjusting to it and everything like that. How is Books with Pictures doing? How is that side of the world? Are you adjusting to this new world order as well as you possibly can?

Katie: Yes. I think that we have some things that make this an easier adjustment for us. One is me being sheltered in place just by being here, so that’s nice. We have a really strong community. And so pretty much as soon as I said, “We’re closing the doors…”

Orders came in?

Katie: Orders came in. I am busier than I can handle. I am a week and a little bit backlogged on orders still. And I’ve been doing fulfillment every day and I’ve been doing deliveries every night. So we are managing to pretty much hold steady in terms of year over year averages.


Katie: Yeah, and part of that is because our business model has always been very trades and book-focused, and so, aside from the twitching withdrawal that me and the rest of the X-Men fans are having about the lack of new X-books, it is okay. New weekly comics are such a small part of overall revenue model in general that losing them is significantly less of a big deal for me than it is for, I think, most retailers. And I’m grateful for that. And partly because of tactics and partly because of my customer situation, on the one hand, doing mail order and delivery and pick-up is a lot more labor-intensive than people picking out their own books and bringing them over to the counter. But the upside is that we’re all focusing on doing that in larger chunks… so I don’t have a mandatory minimum on orders, but I am encouraging to do them for about $50 or more… and moving in not ones and twos, but fours and fives in terms of books makes it more profitable to do the more labor-intensive work. So that’s how I’m trying to shift it. And keeping the expenses as low as humanly possible.

I did a podcast with Heidi MacDonald last night and I was talking about how I think it’s really interesting to see how some shops have adjusted to this. Because I think that your shop is perhaps more attuned to being able to handle a situation like this because, like you said, you’re not as reliant on new comics. But beyond that, I’ve loved seeing the flexibility that you’ve had with this. The personal shopping thing is genius. I don’t know if you’ve even seen my order come in, but I put in an order that’s a particular challenge. It’s for my wife. I’m very interested to see what you come up with.

I love the personal shopping thing. I love the delivery. I love all that stuff. It’s been really nice to see that adjustment. But my question is… You’re figuring this out. You’re figuring it out on the run. Obviously, who knows what it’s going to be like when this all said and done, but do you feel like you’ve learned something from this experience about things you could do… Obviously, you don’t have time to personal shop if everything is going full tilt all the time, but is there something to learn from this?

Katie: I think there’s a lot to learn from this. One of the things that feels very interesting is that there are trends that have felt increasingly important over the last couple of years that this just turns up the volume on in terms of really making sure that I have robust accounts with book distributors. I joined the American Bookseller’s Association this… What? Two weeks ago? Three weeks ago? Time blurs. Which has been on my vague to-do list, but I hadn’t done it.

At this point especially, through where we’ve been, I don’t feel hostile toward Diamond at all. In fact, I maybe feel better about them than I have in a while. They’ve been pretty supportive. I think they were right to close. I think their warehouses were probably not safe for their workers to be in in the ways that they standardly operate. I don’t think it was a bad idea to shut down. I think their communication around it was really bad. But I do think that having more insight into the way that bookstores are running and weathering this has been really helpful in keeping optimism up and keeping that sense of nimbleness and scrappiness of, “oh, the way we did things isn’t working. We need to find a new thing.” And just iterating that. Yeah. I think that is harder for some folks in the direct market than others and I am grateful that I have those skills to pivot and then re-pivot and then re-pivot. But it is exhausting.

A look at deliveries from Books with Pictures

That’s the interesting thing, though, let’s say we’re six months down the line and… I have no idea how it’s going to play out, but let’s say in an extremely theoretical sense that everything is back to normal. There’s shops like Comics Experience, Brian Hibbs’ shop, who’s doing an online store for the first time ever. Does he keep doing that after this? Is it worth doing things like that? I imagine so. I imagine there’s things to learn from. Your situation is made slightly easier perhaps by… You use ComicHub, right?

Katie: I do use ComicHub.

Does it make it a little bit easier? That people can order through that?

Katie: The struggle I’m having with ComicHub right now is that it’s not fully functional for me. I have these tools in place that are keeping me working at 200% already just filling the web orders through the channels that are working. And so I don’t have the ability to put hours into putting in tickets and getting on the phone and doing the tech support to make ComicHub work. It’s not working. It’s broken and I can’t fix it. And the tech support is… It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just that it’s just Stu. In terms of prioritizing where my time is, I have plenty to keep me busy that is generating revenue. When the money starts getting scary, I have backups and backups beyond that and, right now, Comic Hub is just in one of those categories. Because it’s not working. It is working as a point of sale and it is working as a communications hub, but I can’t sell books through it right now. And that sucks.

But the thing is I do really like how you’ve adjusted because the form… As I said, I went through and I put an order in and it’s really easy. I imagine that your customers are pretty understanding about turnaround time because you’re one person with children. And children I mean in a helpful sense. In the sense that they’re probably helping you as much as they possibly can. And I think that that is really great. It is interesting, though, because the personal shopper thing in particular strikes me as something that fits your store because I’ve always felt that when I go into the store, I feel like you and your staff are particularly trying to be helpful. You have things like Douglas Wolk’s… like these forgotten gems that he has recommendations on and everything like that. I feel like there’s a lot of stuff in your store that’s already trying to do that, but this is the ultimate version of it.

Katie: Yeah. When you talk to Stu, who runs Comic Hub, about comics retail, the way he frames it is that all of our biggest competitor is Amazon and so what is most important is that we create a web experience at our individual stores that allows customers to get an experience that replicates their expectations around working with Amazon. I think that that is a totally valid perspective and I also think that that is a fist fight you will lose every time. Not only do I not care about beating Amazon, I also don’t want my customers to expect me to operate like Amazon operates. I can’t. I don’t have the infrastructure for it. I don’t have the inventory for it. I don’t have the time for it.

And so what I’m trying to do instead with the personal shopper stuff is to take the expectations that people have when they come to the shop and find ways to replicate that online. And the first part of that is you don’t need to know what you’re looking for. You don’t need to know my inventory. You should be able to come in and say, “I don’t know. My wife doesn’t read comics, but I really want to get her something that she’ll enjoy,” and then rely on my expertise. And the other part of the personal shopping as opposed to creating a more Amazon-like experience is that my stock is really curated, so I don’t have everything. If you come in with an idea of I really need this book… I might have it. And, right now especially, with the supply chain super weird, all over the place, I’m selling out of the top-tier stuff across the board. I’m running out of books. And I can put in re-orders and they come, but they’re slower with Diamond. Most of my book market publishers except… Well, even Ingram is slow right now. And the publisher direct stuff… They’ve all gotten rid of all of their fast shipping methods. They’ll ship to me, but it’s a week or two.

So the personal shopping gives me the opportunity to make the deep cuts that are like, “hey, I don’t have the most popular thing that you saw a news article about, but I have something significantly weirder than that that I also think you’ll like.” And so that lets me sell deeper into my stock, which is also kind of a big deal right now because I think that just a listing their inventory, mail order store really runs the risk of turning you into a top ten store, which is not really how I want to stock stuff, so.

You said curated. Curated is a perfect word for this. You have a curated vibe. I actually appreciate that you’re not going to have the top stuff because, frankly, I am literally surrounded by comics right now and I probably already have the top stuff. But if you’re getting weird and it’s something that fits my wife instead of me, I feel like there’s a greater chance I won’t own it, so I’m all about that. It’s really interesting to see this because I’ve talked to a lot of shops and a lot of shops are down considerably.

You’re the first one I’ve heard from that it’s actually doing well with it. And part of it is your community. The funny thing is that I think the only other one that is probably handling this where I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re in the vicinity of level is Third Eye over in Maryland because they’re… I don’t know if you’ve seen what they’ve been doing, but they’re just maniacs about all this stuff. They’re doing delivery and they have this Third Eye Battle Bond things and everything and it’s been pretty exciting to see how the adjustments have had to come and to see who’s tried to fit into this new world order in a way that isn’t just trying to put a square peg into a round hole.

Katie: Yeah. I think part of it too is that my expectation is that this is going to be long and I think a lot of shops are just like, well, if we just buckle down for three weeks or six weeks or whatever the latest word from the White House is, then we’re going to be okay. The guidance that came out yesterday was like, “We’ll just have contactless thermometers and you can check the temperature of your customers when they come in the door and then they can keep shopping.” I’m not interested in having that relationship with my customers. I would rather keep my doors closed than be their mom and take their temperature when they come in the door. That’s crazy invasive and I do not like it.

I think it’s entirely possible that this goes into the summer, into the fall, and so everything I’m doing, I’m trying to do with an eye toward what can we do for months. And also, especially with things like the deliveries, keeping in mind that this isn’t forever forever, but… I don’t know. I have these moments when I’m out delivering, especially with my regulars, where I get to see where everybody lives. And I think I had a construct in my mind that most of my customers lived close to me. They don’t. They live all the fuck over.

A look at one day’s delivery route for Proctor

I’ve seen your routes. They’re insane! It’s bonkers.

Katie: Yeah. Which, on the one hand, it’s inconvenient. It’s time. And gasoline. But it also just underlines… It feels like an honor. People come from all over to come to buy books from me and the fact that, in this whatever several month period, I get to give that to them for a while, feels great. It feels really special and is the kind of relationship building that I think is going to stick around after we’re done with this.

I talked to another retailer about this, but I feel like people are going to remember how… When we were talking about it, we were talking about how publishers responded to all this or they didn’t respond or whatever and how retailers would remember that, but I think it goes every which way. I think customers will remember that you were there for them. I think that you’ll remember that customers were there for you. And I think that it really spins in all kinds of different directions.

Katie: Yeah. I’ve got a new regular. I think she came in maybe once before all of this happened, but she has been buying substantial amounts of books from me weekly now and it’s been really interesting to have this relationship building phase of the customer relationship that is happening almost entirely on the phone and by email and when she stands in the doorway when she’s picking stuff up. I had a call with her today and she was really… It was very sweet. She was very emotional about it. Of, like, “I’ve been shopping with you for a month and it feels like you’ve totally nailed my aesthetic and I just want you to pick out my books from now on because you’re really good at it.” I was like, “Awesome! That’s great.” I think that everybody… I think that there is a hunger for connection that is always my and the store’s sweet spot that is massively amplified right now.

Especially because people are looking for that connection.

Katie: Yes. Because everything is bonkers. The world is so strange.

It is.

Katie: And I don’t think any of us really know how to operate in it. I am mostly a person who likes routines and habits and I don’t get to have them right now and I hate that.

I was sick for a month and half. I was sick from February 25th-ish to basically the beginning… I’ve still been kind of coughing the last few days, but I’ve had a lot of the symptoms of the COVID thing. They actually sent me to a COVID clinic and then told me I didn’t have it, which was really exciting, but it’s interesting how things like this hit you because I felt like I was mentally shielded from it. Maybe I was not really allowing myself to feel about it because I didn’t want to freak myself out.

I was prescribed steroids and steroids apparently are crazy at affecting your moods. We had to go to Target to go shopping and when we went, everything was cleared out. There was, like, nothing. Not just toilet paper or hand sanitizer. There was no soup and there was no all of these different things that were basic things. The combination of steroids plus all of that, I freaked out. And I don’t freak out very often. It was this moment that kind of crystallized. I was like, this is not normal and it’s not right and this is bad. It is interesting how you try to carry on and separate yourself from it, but then you have these moments of clarity where you’re like, this is weird! Anyway.

Katie: Yeah. No, I had this moment… I mean, you were talking about the emotional stuff. I Facebook-ed about it. That this feels more like my postpartum period… which I had some postpartum depression and that stuff. But there’s also just this sense of the whole world is different and I’m supposed to just keep doing things. How can I be expected to keep doing things when the whole world has changed? Of course, the difference between I just had a baby and the world is burning is that it’s not just me, so there’s at least that. It’s reassuring.

It is interesting. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the Creators for Comics stuff come up the last few days and just seeing how people are stepping up and trying to help out and everything. That stuff is really great to see because it does make you… Like what you were talking about with going to see where you’re delivering to. It really paints a picture of how big this community really is and how they watch out for each other on certain levels.

But I did want to ask about one thing. It’s Friday. It’s the day that DC announced that they’re going rogue and finding new distribution via DCBS and Midtown starting April 28th, which is, as we record, 11 days from now. When they’re publishing. And then also Diamond is wanting to get back into action by mid to late May and you were complimenting them earlier on the fact that they did push pause. Given the fact that you’re approaching this with more of a long-term view, how do reconcile that with your long-term approach? It’s really fresh for you, but at the same time, are those things you might even just ignore? How are you feeling right now?

Katie: Yeah, that’s a good question. In terms of DC, I feel like I need more time to consider what they’re offering than they are currently giving us to process. And, in general, in my life, in business, in personal situations, when someone tries to put me in that kind of corner, my response is to opt out. So, right at the moment, I am not rushing to sign up with their solution to the problem. I am not rushing to create an account. I am going to communicate to my handful of remaining DC subscribers… It’s easier for me to be nonchalant about this one in particular because DC has not been doing well in my store. I don’t have anybody banging down the door, but I’ll communicate. Especially the Sandman stuff has a handful of subscribers. And I will communicate to them that, for the moment, we’re not engaging with that distribution solution.

Maybe it’ll wind up making sense. Maybe they’ll wind up doing a different thing. I don’t know. But I have the privilege of not being so dependent on single issue, weekly comics. I can step back and say, “No, thank you. I don’t like the conversation that you’re trying to frame.” It’s rude. It’s bad manners. “Hey, it’s Friday. Here’s the new terms. Take them or leave them by Monday.” It’s not cool.

In terms of Diamond, I think that mid to late May… Again, I have a lot of concern for their workers, for their warehouses. I think that if they have taken this closure as an opportunity to make their spaces safer for their staff, I think that’s a big deal. I know that being at the Diamond warehouse for workers is stressful, lousy conditions in the best of times and so I hope that they’re taking time to improve that. And I really think that in terms of my ordering, it’s going to need to come down to only buying the things that I know I can sell in this new environment, which means not buying risky third-tier titles that I bet will sell off the rack and really taking the opportunity of having my audience online and tuned in and answering their emails and expecting me to be communicating in that channel to go back and re-push pre-orders.

The big, looming thing for me as a Marvel fan is Empyre. My numbers have gone up and down by a wild swing on Empyre every time I’ve looked at it. Because I know I could sell it to all of my X-Men subscribers if they were standing in front of me and I don’t know that I can sell Empyre to all of my X-Men subscribers if I am emailing them. Because it’s a different environment. I don’t know. I want that book to be a smash success. I don’t know that it’s going to be. I don’t really have the tools I need to do it.

The other thing is none of the book distributors said stop. A lot of them changed their offerings, changed their procedures, changed their time expectations. Things are slower. I know Hachette, which I don’t have an account with right now, are currently only selling Marvel trades by the case because they reduced their warehouse staff to increase social distancing and so they don’t have the same number of people to do picks and so they’re only taking cases. I never-

How much is in a case?

Katie: A lot.

Yeah, it sounds like a lot.

Katie: Like 36. I never need 36 Captain Americas. Like never ever. I don’t know that I would need 36 Captain Americas if [Ta-Nehisi] Coates was coming here and signing them himself. I’m not getting books from them right now anyway, but that would definitely would be a shift, but that’s still different from not operating at all. So I don’t know. I think that it’s a tricky time. I don’t think that there is a perfect way to do it. I wish that everybody, but especially, Diamond and DC and Marvel were communicating better about their plans. Especially Marvel. Like I still don’t have a plan for Marvel.

A sample of some of Books with Pictures’ mail order efforts

I have to imagine they’re going to react to what DC did. Because they’re very reactionary. Just from what I’m observed over the years, I imagine they’re going to have something. There are a few things that are really strange about all of it to me. Especially DC. Distributing on April 28th is a bold move in a number of ways. I feel like there’s a 100% chance that it leads to 80% of the total population being in some form of shelter in place by that point still. You are good at handling all this stuff, but I don’t know if every shop is necessarily going to be in a place where it’s going to be easy for them to get these to customers. Like my shop can’t even sell to customers right now. Period. Just cannot.

Katie: Yeah. And lots of states. I am in the especially weird situation of as long as the mailman can pick up from me, I can sell something. Because I’m home. But lots of shop owners are being told depending on where they are and how they’re shut down that they can’t leave their house to go to their shops. And so in terms of… yeah.

It’s weird.

Katie: It’s weird. It is a decision that seems focused on making retailer outlets that already have robust mail order arms dominant and the company with the best mail order arm is in fact the person we are being asked to purchase from.

How do you feel about that? I feel like that’s the weirdest part about this is that now shops are being asked to order from, effectively, in a lot of ways, their competitor.

Katie: Competitors. Yeah, absolutely. I am not a lawyer, but I feel like surely there are lawyers who are noticing this. It feels incredibly shady, and honestly, shadier because it’s not where they started the conversation. If the announcement had been, “we considered various outlets. There were logistical problems with all of them. Because of these reasons, we decided that Midtown and DCBS were the only people in the correct position to do this work and so we’re contracting with them. And here is how we’re protecting your data from them.” Whatever.

I feel like there are things that I need to know that are not in the announcements that have been made so far and I feel like… I got the email this morning, which is how everybody found out this news, and my first thought was, well, who’s Lunar Distribution? Because it’s not like… The rumor, whatever it is, three weeks ago was that Penguin Random House was going to do it. And I feel like if it had been Penguin Random House, my response would have been, oh, well I work with them. They’ve got strengths and weaknesses, but I know who they are and I know their competencies, so I can work from an informed standpoint there.

And they’re already a distributor.

Katie: And they’re already a distributor. So I go to Google, who is Lunar Distribution? Are they are a newsstand magazine distributor? What do they do? No, they’re a pretend business. We just made them up. That’s kind of offensive.

It’s wild. It’s a very bold move.

Katie: The way that today has been handled feels disrespectful to the retailers, which I don’t love. Mostly, I feel like there are very big corporate lawyer conversations happening between DC and Marvel and Diamond and what we are getting is such a tiny, filtered, reactionary window into that that it feels very hard to even have smart opinions about it. I used to be an historian. That was my previous life. One of them. And one of the things I worked on was the atomic scientist movement in the 1930’s and ’40’s, where Albert Einstein and his buddies were going to prevent the Cold War through information sharing. And it’s all these incredibly brilliant people… I mean, best minds in the world easily. Hands down.

The people who invented nuclear weapons are sitting here trying to take on politics and figure out how we’re going to prevent a cold war. And they are working so hard and so smart and writing these eloquent, long, philosophical letters to each other and putting out statements in the newspaper and organizing. If you have access to anything classified from that period, you know that the CIA and the US Government has already decided that there’s going to be a cold war. It has already started and here is what it looks like. And watching these brilliant scientists and political folks hustle and hustle and hustle absolutely in futility because forces more powerful than them have way more information than they do and have already made decisions… I feel a little bit like that. It is just not useful for me to have opinions about this stuff right now because the people who are fighting about it are so far above my pay grade.

So the best thing you can really do is just focus on your own world and then just deal with it when it all shakes out.

Katie: Pretty much.

I think that’s a healthy approach and I think that…I don’t mean this specifically about retailers, but I do think retailers have a tendency of trying to save the industry instead of save their own business. And I think sometimes if you focus so much on trying to resolve issues with things that you can never, ever hope to control, you can lose your momentum as a business. And I think you’re doing a good job of trying to… You want to know and you want to care, but you also know you can only control what you can control. Does that make sense?

Katie: Yes. I have a list of priorities that I come back to that’s like… First, me and the kids need to be okay. Second, this business needs to be here when this all shakes out. Third, I have a responsibility to my staff so that they can come back and be here when we’re done. And to support the community so that they are able to keep doing what we do. And then there’s the larger industry. And even that is like there’s the shops that I am in tight conversation with and I’ve got… The retailers that I am directly engaged with because we’re philosophically aligned or whatever. And then there’s the larger industry.

The other thing that I am finding really hard in that list of priorities right now is that we opened our second shop at the beginning of March. It’s a separate entity. It’s a franchise, effectively. I’m talking to my partner down there pretty much every day and figuring out how to be supportive and tuned in to what she’s got going on and also trusting that she is figuring things out and keeping my attention focused here is tricky. Because part of me is just like, no, I will stop everything I’m doing and help her out because she’s new and this is scary and partly like she’s brilliant and that’s why I wanted to work with her and so she’s got this. She is learning about online advertising in a way that I didn’t even jump into for a year at least, but that’s where she needs to get started. So I’m kind of excited to see what kind of retailer she’ll be with this being her sort of trial by fire. I think she’s going to be smart and savvy about a lot of things that a lot of… that me or especially people who’ve been doing this a lot longer are not going to be tuned into in nearly the same ways.

I’m very excited to see how you handle all this stuff. I’m excited to see how she handles all this stuff. Honestly, I think that the the direct market is really interesting. I always say this, but it’s basically like every shop is different because every shop is owned by a different person who has a different perspective on how things should go.

Look at Portland in general. You look at Floating World and you look at Excalibur and you look at Cosmic Monkey and you look at Bridge City. All of those shops are just wildly different. There’s overlap. Obviously, they all sell comics, but the audience for Floating World is different from your audience and the different… Like you look at Excalibur. This is just my guess, but Excalibur seems like one who might struggle a little bit more under this situation just because they do seem to have more of a Marvel, DC focus maybe. I don’t know, but it’s interesting because everyone handles this so differently because while you’re all dealing in the same industry, you’ve all cultivated different audiences and different approaches.

Katie: I mean, I think that, for me, just staying curious about what’s going on is really important rather than being scared all the time. Not that I’m not spending a ton of time being scared all the time. But if I can channel that into being interested in what other shops are doing and being interested in what that response looks like… I don’t know. That’s fascinating.

Yeah. It is.

Katie: It’s awful, but it’s fascinating.

Also, I think that we all can learn from each other. I think all the shops can learn from each other. I think you were the first to roll out, basically, curbside pick-up and delivery. And then, really quickly, people were doing the same thing because it was like, “oh, that’s a good idea.” Or at least you were the first one I saw do it.

Katie: We were pretty quick. I don’t know if you remember, when Emerald City Comic Con got canceled, we planned a little in-shop con and then it turned into a citywide con and it was going to be distributed and it was literally… We planned this thing in a weekend and then the pandemic got very quickly very much worse and so it went from we are going to support artists and creatives who are losing their con revenue by giving them a place to sell in a controlled environment where we’re sanitizing things and there’s not more than 50 people in the room and is in fact safer than a convention, which it would’ve been safer than a convention, but then it was becoming apparent that safer than a convention was not the bar. So I was the initiator of that con and then I was also the first person to pull out of it. And when I pulled out, it was in this context of, oh, shit. This is so much worse than we think. And so not only did I pull out, I also closed the shop. And it was like, “oh, okay.”

“Time to figure out the next thing.”