To the surprise of few, Comic Relief, the once groundbreaking but recently troubled Berkeley comics shop, has closed, according to word on the street and an actual sign on the door posted by Image’s Branwyn Bigglestone.
As reported in December, Comic Relief has struggled in the two years since founder Rory Root’s death, with cash flow problems leading to Diamond ceasing shipments of new comics — pretty much the death knell for a comics store.
Rumors have flown recently of a new buyer, but not in time to stop the closing. In a comment on the earlier Beat story on Comic Relief, employee Jim Friel mentioned that he, current manager Chris Juricich and an unnamed third party were looking to buy the store and reopen it. We have some emails out on this and will report anything we find out.
UPDATE: Jim Friel emailed us with the following good news:
The inventory and fixtures, as well as custody of the two store cats, Ash and Ember, have been acquired by Jack Rems, founder and owner of Dark Carnival Books, an excellent science fiction and mystery bookstore which has operated in Berkeley for 35 years. No other assets or obligations were acquired. The store manager, Chris Juricich, and I were also involved in the buyout.
There will be a new store.
It will not be called Comic Relief. We’ll be announcing the new name some time between now and WonderCon.
All of the former Comic Relief staff who worked there at the time of closing will be employees. We hope that it will be located in the same spot, but that will depend on negotiations with the landlord: we have other options open.
We intend to make this the best comic bookstore in the country. It won’t be Rory’s store–that’s gone, like Rory, who was a friend of all three of us. We intend to incorporate the best of the old Comic Relief approach, and add to it.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.