Philadelphia woman opens comics shop that focuses on diversity and coffee

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I can’t think of a better story to end this year with than that of Ariell R. Johnson, reportedly the East coasts first black female comics shop owner. Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse opens in the and coming Kensington part of town and will offer not only comics but a cozy coffeeshop vibe.

This “geeky” hybrid hopes to contribute to the burgeoning Kensington section of Philadelphia. Amalgam hopes to build community around comics, coffee, and relaxing with friends, and also through hosting geeky and diversity-themed workshops, movie/TV screenings, book signings, and BYOB nights.

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“I got the idea for the shop about 12 years ago, when I was still attending Temple University,” said Amalgam’s owner, Ariell R. Johnson. “My favorite coffee shop was directly across the street from my comic book store of choice. So, each Friday, I would buy my books at Fat Jack’s, go across the street to Crimson Moon, and read everything I bought.


Johnson hopes to highlight diversity in the shop—along with quality caffeine:
I

t will be a legit store, so expect to see the heavy hitters that we all know and love,” she said. “But in addition to those usual suspects, we want to showcase diverse comics, creators, and characters. We think that comics are for everyone and anyone that loves comics-women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. We will actively look to stock titles that showcase people in these groups, right long with Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Thor.”


This story encapsulates everything that happened in comics in 2015: women in comics as characters, readers and carters were no longer a pleasant surprise but the way things are; diversity was often contentious and controversial, but widening the audience was not only a way to get more readers but in general, the right thing to do. And while we were saddened to see Locust Moon close shop in Philadelphia, hopefully Amalgam will carry the torch for indie comics. Also the coffeehouse/comics shop model is one that I’ve seen a few places. Having a “chill out” area seems to be essential to the community building that has kept local brick and mortar stores alive. It’s also part of the book shop tradition…and in 2016 comics stores are indie book stores not the Android’s Dungeon, something that the entire industry needs to embrace. 

I saw this story posted everywhere on my FB feed over the last day or two, so people are getting the message and supporting it.

Congrats to Ariell R. Johnson and wishing her the best of luck for her store.

Comments

  1. dave miller-lad says

    I’ve wanted to do a store like this for some time. Well played, Ms Johnson. Well played!

  2. Torsten Adair says

    The “comics cafe” model has been slowly growing.
    I mentioned Legends Comics & Coffee in my Black Friday posts. They have a drive-through for the coffee (because not all cities have subways), and share the landmarked building with J. Coco, a regional Beard chef! They won the Eisner Spirit award in 2014, in business since 2011.

    Elsewhere?
    Sidekick, in Toronto
    Gotham City Comics & Coffee in Mesa, Arizona
    Capes Kafe in Des Moines
    Pulp 716, in Lockport, NY (east of Niagara Falls!)
    Rabbit’s Hole Book Store & Coffee Shop, in Clermont, Florida (west of Orlando)
    Comic Cafe Wollongong in Australia!
    Vigilantes Comics & Cafe in Robin Warners, Georgia
    The Spritely Bean, in Portland, Oregon

    Given that the original coffeehouse model from Vienna encourages customers to linger and read, a comics cafe is a bit of a no-brainer. Even more of a face-palm, when one realizes that manga cafes (mangakissa) are quite prevalent in Japan. Manga Cafe Atom existed for a time in Midtown NYC. See: Geragera, Media Cafe Popeye)

    I think many comics fans did the same as Ms. Johnson. Me, when I shopped at Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, I’d retire to Ben & Jerry’s, or Plato’s Burgers, or the Tastee Diner for lunch!

    OH MY….
    http://grrrltraveler.com/sightseeing/unique-stays/the-cheapest-budget-stay-in-japan-the-manga-cafe/
    Overnight stay in a mangakissa!

  3. Hufnagel0 says

    @Torsten – I’m diggin your Legend love. I’ve been going there since I got back into comics, and it’s absolutely amazing; such a great staff.

    Love that these comic cafes are a thing, too. Like Heidi said, this kind of environment can really foster a strong, engaged readership. Which is what the indie side of the market needs; shops that’ll shine a spotlight on comics for wider audiences. And not the same folks who’ve been buying from the big two for years.

  4. jacob goddard says

    I’m not sure that neighborhood can support a store like that yet.

  5. says

    I’m in the metro DC area and will do all I can to talk up this project. There’s no reason it should not be a success,

  6. Paul Boyd says

    Anything positive for the community and a great vision is OK with that. Much success in your business, I’m sure it’s going to be a hit.

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