Anybody into comics knows Steve Rogers is a veteran from WWII and Captain America in comic books. But Steve Rogers, a veteran of Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq, has been operating Dreamcatcher Comics and Collectables as a storefront for almost four months in downtown Tallassee.
Rogers loves his comics, keeping up with all the villains, superheroes and more, but opening a comic book store wasn’t on his radar. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“If you would have asked me about opening a comic store two years ago I would have laughed at you,” Rogers said. “Everyone rediscovered their childhood during the pandemic. We all went to our computers looking for things to do. Collectors in general started looking, ‘I wonder how Beanie Babies are doing?’ People started buying back their childhood.
“I was also watching. I bought a tape for $5 and yesterday it was $3 and tomorrow it was $10. I started buying a few things I wouldn’t ordinarily buy.”
Rogers saw an opportunity and took a risk opening a store during a pandemic selling of all things comic books in downtown Tallassee.
“I started looking into more and said this is a viable option,” Rogers said. “If you have been in quarantine and something opens in your backyard, you are going to go.”
Rogers opened Dreamcatcher Comics and Collectables for the June sidewalk prematurely as his store wasn’t quite ready.
“We were going to be the only business not open,” Rogers said. “We had vendors on either side of us. We opened up not expecting many folks in a place that looked nothing like it does now. There were very few new comics. I was nervous. I have spent time in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, I was more nervous here on opening day than there.”
The customers have arrived and Rogers hasn’t taken a day off since.
“It went well,” Rogers said. “A lot of good stuff was said on social media and it has continued every single day.”
Some of Rogers’ customers had traveled to Montgomery and other cities to buy comics. Some customers are getting back into comics after leaving for a few years because there was nowhere local to buy them. It is those customers that keep Rogers motivated to stay a viable business.
“When we opened up some customers started collecting again and we helped them get stuff they missed,” Rogers said. “If we closed, that affects him, they would have to go back to Montgomery.”
The comic books are not the cheaply print newsprint issues of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Now comics have new story lines, some tied to movies and television shows. Most have the stories inside but publishers have figured out variant covers trigger more sales.
“We do have a lot more variants than when we first opened,” Rogers said. “Someone might not buy Spiderman but there may be an artist they follow and will want that cover. By offering more covers, people may want more.”
The weekly shipment of comics has created a feeding frenzy only superheroes, villains and comics can quell. Rogers chums the water on social media previewing on Tuesdays soon to be stocked comic books.
“For some of these guys, it's the night before Christmas,” Rogers said. “I used to put out photos of comics the day they are available but have started doing it the night before. We get phone calls, emails and texts wanting this one or that, I'll ask ‘is that all?’ A few minutes later comes the text wanting something else.”
Rogers figured out there was a need to expand his offerings in the first four months. Quickly Rogers assembled an anime/manga room.
“I got tired of watching money walking out the door,” Rogers said. “Nowhere in Alabama is there an Anime/manga store. Most stuff is at book stores. Traditionally about one shelf and that is it. Comic stores traditionally don’t carry a lot of it.”
Those customers were buying online. Those customers now come to Rogers’ shop for more than just a book or movie.
“We had Demon Slayer chopsticks,” Rogers said. “They sold by the end of the day. We have
anime/manga facemasks, backpacks, tshirts, as long as it is connected to their favorite anime/manga, they buy it. That is why we got involved. They had nowhere to go. We had room here. If it works, great. It has worked into our favor.”
Rogers has expanded to include tabletop games such as Magic and Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).
“These guys have to drive to Montgomery,” Rogers said. “Some are married and their wives are are not letting five or six or their buddies come over to 3 or 4 in the morning to play.”
Now Rogers has tables set up in the back for games on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
With space starting to be at a premium in Dreamcatcher Comics and Collectables, Rogers has a plan for expansion but not necessarily with comics or anime/manga. There is a vacant space next door but Rogers isn’t ready to take it on just yet.
“We are going to keep going here until we are bursting at the seams,” Rogers said. “As much as I would like to do it right now, as much as they would like us to do it right now, I can’t rely on 9 to 10 people to open it up, plus you open up another can of worms.”
Customers have already started to congregate at Rogers’ shop. One customer referred to the comics as his drug and enjoying meeting others into comics and more. And Rogers is fine with the customers learning more about each other.
“There have been times when customers finish paying and go to the table and discuss stuff,” Rogers said. “The running joke is this is Tallassee’s bar. I’m waiting for the first phone call from a wife asking if her husband is here — hold on, it has already happened.”
It’s still a new business and Rogers understands it has to make a profit to stay open but he isn’t trying to gouge either. It’s more about the new friends he’s made and even hosted a birthday party for in his first months.
“We are still kind of hand to mouth, it’s a brand new business,” Rogers said. “Closing, you let a lot of people down. Unlike Walmart and some other stores, you do build a rapport with your customer. If this were to close tomorrow, I wouldn’t like the fact we failed in business but I would be more hurt because I have customers I feel I would have let down.”