Every business begins with a story. Some of the stories are heartfelt, some are inspirational, and some are just about plain money.
I am happy to say that Bonanza Books and Comics in Modesto, CA is about the former. It is one of the longest running shops in the USA and has been continuously run by the same family for over 41 years.
I had the pleasure to speak with the owners, Bill and Lillian, and get some of their feedback on what its like to run a comic store, and also get some feedback on the ups and downs of the comic industry.
COMICS RACK-First of all, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to interview with me on this fine rainy day. How long has your store been around. How long have you been in business?
Lillian: We have been in business for over 40 years. We started in 1973 as a used bookstore and our son who was into comics got us to add a little rack of comics. The business just grew from there.
COMICS RACK: Very nice. I can see the comics now take up half the store!
Lillian: Half the store and growing! We have gradually expanding the comics section bit by bit. We have been in this specific location for over 16 years.
COMICS RACK: Our sons now run the store, we just just fill in from time to time. We fill in so they can go home and still mow their lawns!
Lillian: We used to do gaming, Pokemon, and also Pogs. That was about 10 years ago. Like everything else, all of that comes and goes.
COMICS RACK: Do comics still do very well for you guys?
Lillian: Comics still do very well for us. The advent of the Marvel Movies has really helped us out. It has brought in a lot of new readers.
COMICS RACK: That’s good to hear! I come from a generation where I pretty much thought I was the last person to read comics
Lillian: Comics have their ups and downs. The late 1990’s showed a bit of decline. As soon as we got some good Captain America movies, that really helped to revitalize the industry. We have customers who were 10 when they started coming here. They got married, and now their kids are coming here as well! We also get a few people that come in from our reviews on Yelp. (Note from CR, they are at 4 and a half stars!).
COMICS RACK: That’s great to hear! How is Walking Dead doing for you guys? I am curious to see if the television show has had any impact on your store sales.
Lillian: Walking Dead has done very well for us. We get a lot of foot traffic from that. Its very popular. Most of our sales these days comes from DC. We got a lot of new people who came in due to their new 52 launch. That energized the industry and forced Marvel to do some new things too. Marvel is relaunching all the time now.
COMICS RACK: Yeah its crazy. Marvel seems to be relaunching every 5 months now.
Lillian: The strategy of constant number ones seems to be bringing in new sales. We have though, seen quite a new trade paperbacks come out in recent years. I can still remember when my son was 12 and a lot of these comics originally first came out. He can remember every character and every issue. He had all of the original Amazing Spider-Man comics. He sold those and that helped put our grandkids through college! (Laughs)
COMICS RACK: Very awesome. You have a great store, and a very decent collection.
Lillian and Bill: We are one of the oldest stores in the country. Other stores have come and gone and we’re still here! Fortunately our sons love comics, and the business is still here!
I wanted to thank Lillian and Bill for sharing some of their time with me. They have an excellent store, and I encourage the humble CR reader to check it out. You can go to the Bonanza website at bonanzabooks.net and also follow them on Facebook.