by Nathan Stout
Let me setup this next paragraph so I don’t get my ass kicked by Chris. I actually wrote the bulk of these Renegade Anime blogs several years ago (as one document) and I am now putting them here on Blogger for all to see. I have added and editied quite a bit to correct errors and fill in gaps I originally left. With that said this next paragraph was written several years ago. I do feel it is correct in its thoughts (I won’t call them facts.) Chris is my best friend, and we are often critical of each other, but in a way that motivates.
I do feel to this day that I did like 200% more than Chris when it came to the business but I think I was more motivated since it was my baby. He will of course disagree but I really felt I did the majority of the work. I feel he was more my motivation to do all this so it was o.k. by me. One thing he did try to do was wrap the books we sold on EBay. We didn’t want to use boxes since that would be too cost prohibitive so we decided to wrap them in newspaper then in paper bags. What Chris would produce was this mangled brick of paper and tape that looked horrendous. Now that I think about it all I am not sure Chris did much other than man the shop when I wasn’t there. I know I will get it when he reads that but that’s the way I honestly feel.
With the bad location I don’t want to give the impression that we never had any customers… we did have a few customers. Thieving customers, that is. Some lady had shop down the ways from ours. She had these three cute little children. These kids came in and their hands were everywhere. It was hard to keep track of what they were doing (the old run interference scam). They all soon exited the shop (buying nothing of course) and I heard a pop noise quickly after they left. I walked outside and they had vanished. On the ground not far from the entrance was the wrapper of one of the items we sold, a bomb bag. They were these little foil bags you squeezed. It released vinegar into the baking soda inside and soon the bag expanded then popped. Considering they were just in there, and also considering I hadn’t sold any of these in a while, and considering I heard the pop I heard, I am going to go out on a limb and say they took it. This is of course America and they are innocent until proven guilty. Needless to say the shop quickly had a new policy of: ‘no one under 15 without an adult’.
Another theft happened right before my eyes from some punks I actually got on tape (or hard drive that is). These two older kids 14 or so came in with a real interest for Magic The Gathering cards and spent some time going through them. I also showed them the earlier edition rares I had and I saw him palm one of them. Before they left I got them on camera. The final theft we had in the shop came months later and was much more involved and interesting (see below). When I think about it I think the thieves we had constituted about 1/10 of all the customers we had.
Rewind a little bit… One day in March Paul finally got around to putting an air conditioner / heater unit into the shop. He was going to put it in the back wall, where you could tell one had been years before, but the wall had been bricked over. He started smashing away at the brick and mortar sending clouds of dust all over the shop. I tired to keep things covered as best I could but it was everywhere. He finished out the hole and vacuumed the debris out and we lifted the unit into the wall. He caulked around it while Chris and I took pictures. We printed one silly one of Paul and posted it on the cork board at the front of the store. It said “The fate of the world lies in this man’s hands. Be afraid, be very afraid”. He was holding the vacuum and crossing his eyes in the photo. Once installed, the unit worked great. It would get so very cold in the shop at night that when we came in around 11 or so it would be freezing and we would prop the door open in hopes it would warm up. We would also run a small space heater to speed up the process. I got around to plugging in the heater to a timer to have it come on in the early morning to speed it up even more. With the wall unit finally in place we could warm up the shop much quicker. As the months went by, it helped with the heat too.
Speaking of the corkboard we placed Paul’s picture on, we had quite a collection of articles on it. The first thing that went up was my business license. The next thing that went on it was an attempt to get customers involved in the shop. It was a trivia question. If you got it right you got like 10% off your purchase. The question was really loaded since you would have to be a real freak to know the answer. It was: ‘what was the nam Ling’s father in Kung Pow’? If you watched the movie you wouldn’t even find out. You would have to listen to the commentary track to know his name. I can’t even think of it now. Several Magic: The Gathering cards lined the edges of the board. Chris would place the cards that he found (while sorting) that had writing on them. Chris would also place newspaper clippings of different things on it as well. He found an ad (somewhere) that was for a night club called the ‘Lamplighter Club’. It had this silhouette of a naked woman on it and advertised it to be a fine gentleman’s club. One day he actually got around to showing it to the old lamplighter guy who thought it was funny.
The computer we had for the shop was truly on its way to being an antique. It was an old 300MHz PC I had from years back that was still running (only just). All we needed was something to run Quickbooks and Ebay stuff on. I got it running but ran into a problem when we went to get DSL. It required a 333MHz minimum PC to run it. I spent some time and figured out how to overclock it and soon it worked fine. We got the programs on it and began to use it daily. We used it not only for business but also pleasure. Chris typed many notes and things on it and I played a lot of Highseas Trader on it. It was slow enough to run the old game with no problems. Later, I made the mistake of giving Chris a Magic: The Gathering Online CD. He spent a lot of time playing that in the final months. The computer starting acting up early on with the power supply making loud noises. I think however that it still runs (Chris has it somewhere).
I guess that all in all we had somewhere around 20 customers in the year we were open. That’s all. Of that 20 probably 8 bought something. I would have to verify that but I am almost certain that is the correct number. The one conclusion we came to is that you cannot have a comic/collectible shop. They just don’t work. People come in looking for one particular item. You can have everything under the sun, but if you don’t carry this expansion, or that action figure, you get nowhere. I could say that if we had focused 100% on Magic cards we might have had better luck, but with the amount of people that came through the door that would be inaccurate. EBay was our best bet. That year we did somewhere around fourteen thousand dollars of business on EBay. We could have stayed in the shop if we had kept up the momentum on EBay. Once again I will have to give some of the blame to Chris. I can take some blame as well but I would often come in and see that Chris had shown up for only a couple of hours on his ‘days to work’ or spent his time playing Magic Online. We just didn’t give it our all.
The months went by and we tried to keep the EBaying up but it was hard. Posting auctions is lengthy and can get tiresome. My personal money was starting to run out as well since I still had no real job. The shop was just not working out. I had to move back home by March of 2004 and I gave up. Chris didn’t want to give up so I arranged to turn everything over to him. He pretty much used it as his hideaway from the family. Please don’t hurt me for saying that, Chris. He would wind up sleeping there at night. Other than that I don’t know what he was doing there other than staying online and playing Magic. I felt good to be rid of the whole mess and focused on getting a new job and working on fixing my mom’s old mobile home I moved into.
Chris did still have the the comic shop open (after I gave up on it) and occasionally had the random guest. During this period our most interesting customer arrived, Quinton. This young man came in with a keen interest in Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic but alas he had very little money. Chris showed him some compassion and allowed Quinton to hang out and even played Magic with him. What a guy! Chris should have been nominated for a big brother award (not the television show). One day Quinton hung out at the shop with Chris for awhile then left later that day. Now I was doing my own thing up in Joshua, having given up on the idea of a comic book shop. Some time that same late evening I get a call from Chris. “The shop got broken into.” I couldn’t believe it. Well I could, the shop was in Como. I came into Fort Worth and sure enough I found Paul and Chris standing in the remains of my dream. Paul was cleaning up the broken glass and Chris was kind of looking shell shocked in an amused way. He already seemed to know who did it. He revealed his suspicion that it was Quinton. Our burglar stole something like six hundred dollars worth of cards. We really didn’t know where Quinton lived or his last name so our number one suspect was simply someone with a first name. That is until Chris remembered an important fact from earlier in the day. Our criminal mastermind made one fatal mistake… Quinton had borrowed the phone to call his foster mom when he was inthe shop eariler that day. No one had used the phone since so Chris simply hit *69 and there you go. Apparently he was a troubled youth that was living with a foster family. In the next couple of days Quinton confessed and returned the bulk of the stolen items. He was to pay us back for the damage and other cards he didn’t return. He made like one payment then stopped. Chris decided to press charges and to this day that case is still open. We never got money from him for the window or the missing cards he never returned and probably never will.
Chris was finally forced out in mid to late 2004. I had gotten a job at EB Games and focused on getting as much of the rest of the comic book store stock on EBay in my spare time. Years later I still had a lot of the stock left and I would go to conventions and flea markets every now and then. In 2005, I also officially ended the Renegade Anime business (when doing my taxes). Somehow six months later I received another Renegade Anime business license in the mail. I am not sure if it was a mess up or fate. In 2008 I ended it again.
I want to and will try my luck at my own business again some day. Why, you would ask, would I want to relive the failure of a business? It’s simple. My time with the failed shop and the experience I earned are things I enjoyed and want to keep as a fresh memory so I am writing it here. Even though I lost so much money I treasure the memories I had of those wacky times. It was a nice hang out and I wish we could have afforded to keep it. If anything it would have been a great place to run our little EBay enterprise.