Saturday, December 16, 2017
Home  >  Features  >  Mighty Retailer Spotlight: 30 Years of Lee's Comics

Lee's Comics Spotlight

Lee's Comics

2 locations:
Mountain View
1020 N. Regenstorff Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94043
(650) 965-1800

San Mateo
2222 El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 571-1489

 

Lee’s Comics has been bringing the best in comics to the San Francisco Bay Area since 1982. For our first retailer spotlight, we are honored to celebrate Lee’s 30-year anniversary, and share with you why we and other comic book fans love both Lee’s shops. We sat down with owner Lee Hester and long-time Lee’s employee Richard Garcia to learn more about the business, get the inside scoop on their 30 years in comic book retail, and find out what they think you should be reading right now.

 

What you can expect at Lee’s Comics

We love that when we go to Lee’s Comics, they always have everything we’re looking for. They even surprise us by exposing us to new items that we didn’t even know we wanted. Lee’s has every kind of comic book you could possibly want – from the newest releases to old collectibles, going all the way back to the very early ones from the ‘30s and ‘40s. You can find any graphic novel or comic strip you need, and they don’t skimp on merchandise either, carrying everything from t-shirts, coasters, toys, cups, gift items, to statues. Lee put it this way: “if you like to read comics or comic strips, if you like any of the characters, we’ve got a ton of stuff for you. Its like a little slice of heaven for comics fans.”

Lee’s Comics' 30-year history

We also love that the history of Lee’s Comics is a great example of a typical, successful small business in America. Lee’s Comics started out small and grew over time through hard work, entrepreneurial spirit, dedication to their customers, and a little luck. The original shop was opened in Palo Alto in 1982. Lee had started out as a small part time dealer at flea markets and small conventions, until he discovered a small, 700-square foot shop for lease on a little-travelled side street. At the time, his main competitor was a huge chain store called Comics & Comix, which at one point maintained 10 stores in the western United States. But Lee was careful to keep his costs down – even building his own fixtures – and grew more savvy about the business over time. He struggled to get ahead for several years, but eventually hit a point where the business was clearly making it and doing alright.

Inspired by Stan Lee’s motto of “Excelsior!” (meaning “higher and higher!”), Lee soon opened a second store in San Mateo, double the size of his original shop, and moved the original store to a bigger, more prominent location in Palo Alto, right on the major El Camino Real thoroughfare. Both stores thrived during the comics boom of the 1990s, and in 2000, Lee upgraded the Palo Alto store again to his biggest shop yet, the current Mountain View location. Although the comics industry and the general economy hit hard times soon after, Lee’s Comics survived, outlasting their biggest competitor, Comics & Comix, and one of the businesses that had initially inspired them, Tower Records. While other shops have come and gone, Lee changed and innovated along with the industry. He also remained intelligent in his purchasing, was good to his employees, and offered consistency and respect to his customers. These solid business practices led Lee’s Comics to become one of the most successful and well-loved comic book retailers in California.

3 things that make Lee’s Comics special

1. Extensive and comprehensive selection of comics and graphic novels
Lee’s strategy is to “carry anything that’s either good or saleable. We end up ordering almost everything from all of the large and smaller publishers. Not everything, because there are some things that are of dubious quality. But often if we can just sell one copy of something, we’ll get it. I believe we have the most comprehensive selection that you’re going to find in the Bay Area - from comics to graphic novels, both old and new.” Collectors in particular love to come to Lee’s to find older comics, finding gems among the over 10,000 vintage issues available.

2. Friendly & helpful staff
Have you ever visited a comic shop to find unfriendly staff and a group of their friends crowded around the counter, chatting about their favorite comic or video game, and treating customers like they are unwelcome intruders? We have had this experience at several shops, but never at Lee’s Comics. At Lee’s, the staff is always friendly and helpful. They can help you locate anything in the store, and will make recommendations for you to find something new to read. I have even arrived at the store too late to catch one of my favorite new comics on the shelf, and the gentleman ringing me up happily gave up his own copy of the comic so that I could have it. Its part of the culture at Lee’s to appreciate customers and build relationships with them, and that keeps us coming back.

3. The Lee’s Comics eBay store
The Lee’s eBay store is a way for readers both inside and outside of the Bay Area to access Lee’s extensive collection of new and old comics, and to experience their excellent customer service. “Its all 100% satisfaction guaranteed,” says Lee. “That makes it safe to order on eBay, because a lot of times if you order on there you don’t know if you’re going to receive it, you don’t know the quality, and you don’t know if they’re going to accept returns. If you order from us, you have no worries. Its 100% satisfaction, or your money back. I’m in this for the long haul and the customer is extremely valuable to me. I’d rather take a small loss to make the customers happy so that they come back.”

Reading recommendations from Lee and long-time employee/avid comic reader, Richard Garcia

Top books visitors should check out at Lee’s Comics
For younger readers

  • - Bone by Jeff Smith
  • - Tin Tin by Hergé
  • - Asterix by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
  • - Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge by Carl Barks

For mature readers (16+)

  • - Maus by Art Spiegelman
  • - Blankets by Craig Thompson
  • - Y: the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
  • - The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard

Best comics series out now

  • - Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • - Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
  • - Anything written by Scott Snyder, including Batman, Swamp Thing, American Vampire, and Severed

If you haven’t read this graphic novel, you’re really missing out!

  • - Y: the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

 

Congratulations to Lee's Comics on your 30-Year Anniversary! Cheers for being our first Mighty Retailer Spotlight, and for helping MightyVille find all the comics we need as our local comic shop!

Richard Garcia of Lee's Comics Lee's Comics interior

Lee's Comics Interior 2 Lee's Comics Interior 3

More Lee's Comics on MightyVille:

Lee's Comics: Celebrating their 30th Anniversary and their Customers

 

Comments (2)
  • Leescomics  - Outstanding!
    Sommer,

    Of all the articles written about Lee's Comics, this one best conveys the essence what we are trying to achieve with Lee's Comics. I'm so happy that someone understands our mission here. Thank you so much for including me in your wonderful new site.

    Excelsior!

    Lee Hester
    Lee's Comics
  • MightyVille  - Our pleasure
    Lee,

    You are very welcome. It was our pleasure, and just a testament to how much we appreciate the fine business you are running at Lee's Comics. Thanks so much for your support of our site.

    Sommer K
Only registered users can write comments!
 

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