Exclusive: Carmine Street Comics, The West Village's New Great American Comics Shop

The summer of 2009 was the worst season of my whole life. I suspect that this is true for many college students spending some time at home between freshman and sophomore year and, for reasons that I don't care to get into here, I had it particularly bad. That August, as I was beginning to come out the other side, I felt that I had to take all that ennui, which built up and then was melted by Chicago's summer sun, and evacuate it.

I called my friend Jon. I said "let's write about comics." And, nearly four years and more than 500 posts later, you're reading the result of that conversation. We're very proud of it. And we have plans to be around for a long, long time. You may have noticed, though, that Jon's presence the last few months has been a little minimal. He's been busy, you see, on a much different comics related project: At the beginning of May, with his partner Mike Novo, Jonathan Gorga is opening up a comic book shop.

Carmine Street Comics' Front Window, All Lit Up
The store will share space with the downsizing Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books in Manhattan and will be called Carmine Street Comics, after its location in the West Village. He and Mike settled on the name in part because his father's name is Carmine, but also, he says, because "we're proud to transplant ourselves to a new place with such a rich history of 20th century culture: this is Bob Dylan's old neighborhood and where the beat poetry movement started. This street has class and pop culture history in spades." Beyond that, it turns out that Carmine Street has a long history with comics retail; in the front of the new shop is a light up sign that simply reads "Comics." That sign came from Village Comics, once New York's largest comics shop. At some point, it moved into a space it shared with Bleeker Bob's on nearby Bleeker Street and then gave the sign, and their remaining customers, to Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books. By opening on Carmine Street, once also the location of a store called All Comics, Jon and Mike are going to bring back something that the West Village has been missing for a long time. In this spirit, they're committed to integrating themselves into the neighborhood; by partnering with the book store, a Carmine St. mainstay, Jon says that he hopes to "provide both their customers and ours something new in our shared space." They're also hoping to add to the West Village's reputation as a good place to just wander around by using the sidewalk space and the abundance of nearby parks for signings and other events.

The Carmine Street Comics team knows that New York's comics retail market is already crowded, but Jon believes that there are a few things that set them apart from nearby shops. Most important, Jon says that he wants the store to be "locally AND globally-focused, superhero AND indie-friendly, because that's what the comics world needs right now, a new place to bridge those gaps. It's my aim to help those connections grow." One of the ways that they're hoping to do that is through what they're calling the In-Store Artist Program, which will allow NYC-based-comicsmiths to use the space as a small studio and as a ready made venue in which to sell and promote their work. There's a whole roster of artists already involved, including Ellen Stedfeld, the store's first official artist in residence, as well as friend of the blog Danny Lewis, Chris Pirate, Dre Grigoropol, Patrick Tsao, and Jason Quinones. Jon says that these people, and people who make comics in general, are the "real heroes of the comics industry."

Although Jon isn't leaving The Long and Shortbox of It!, I have a feeling that he's going to be distracted by Carmine Street Comics for a long time. The shop will be open at 34 Carmine Street in New York City with a grand opening date scheduled for May 1st, in time for Free Comic Book Day on May 4th. I hope you'll be able to come down to Carmine Street and celebrate; I will certainly be there to wish my friend well. In the meantime, if you would like to contact Jon and Mike, you can do so by emailing business concerns to info@carminestreetcomics.com or thecomicsguys@gmail.com for general questions. The website is www.CarmineStreetComics.com.

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