Bay Area comics retailer/distributor Bud Plant, one of the first retailers to specialize in independent comics and related art books, has announced his retirement after 41 years in the business, according to a letter to his mailing list, Tom Spurgeon reports:
fter 41 years in comics as one of the initial Direct Market distributors and stalwart mail-order companies, Bud Plant has apparently announced his retirement in a letter to his mailing list. Plant at one time operated the largest chain of comic stores in the US, and the industry’s third-largest distributor, both of which he sold in 1988. The sale of his distribution company to Diamond vaulted that company to the forefront of the US comics business. The range of Plant’s taste, rooted in classic comics illustration standards but also respectful of smaller, promising efforts of the kind he might discover at the 100s of shows he attended, did much to support the early years of the alternative comics and independent comics factions.
Along with Phil Seuling, Robert Beebohm, and a few others, Plant (shown above in 1982 in a photo by Alan Light) helped create the direct market by proving there was an audience which could support this material.
Plant is offering to sell his business, both catalog and online:
I am offering Bud Plant Comic Art, also known as Bud’s Art Books, for sale. I’m sending this message out to everyone I know in the comic book industry and the book world. This is where I think I’ll find the right buyer to take over. I’m hopeful the synergy between my long-established business, and another retailer or publisher, will be evident to the right person.
As one of the largest booksellers in the ancient “comics selling” section of the San Diego Comic-Con, Plant still has a pretty valuable piece of real estate there. His 40 year old mailing list and client base is also a prime asset. One hopes — though it is unlikely — that a retailer of similar stature will rise to take over these important businesses.
UPDATE: complete text of his letter below:
I thought about writing this as a press release, in the third person, but decided like my long-time catalog editorials, I’d just speak directly to you. It’s been a great run of 41 years since I started this business–in the bedroom of my parent’s house in 1970. Eighteen years later, in 1988, I sold what had become the 3rd largest new comics distribution business to Diamond Comic Distributors. At the same time I also sold the largest chain (7) of comic stores in the U.S., Comics & Comix, which had begun in 1972. From there I concentrated on rebuilding and growing my catalog/mail order business, which had taken a back seat to these other operations. Now 23 years later, it is the premiere source for specialty books in both the comics industry and in the book world.
My own interests have evolved. Several years ago my partner Jim Vadeboncoueur and I started Bud Plant Illustrated Books. We specialized in used and rare illustrated books, as well as out of print comics, fantasy and art books. Today this business continues with my now-partner Anne Hutchison. What I enjoy most is exhibiting at antiquarian book shows, comic books shows and in a local co-operative bookstore. I also sell on the internet as Bud Plant & Hutchison Books.
So I am offering Bud Plant Comic Art, also known as Bud’s Art Books, for sale. I’m sending this message out to everyone I know in the comic book industry and the book world. This is where I think I’ll find the right buyer to take over. The synergy between my long-established business, and another retailer or publisher, will be evident to the right person.
We currently produce 15 full-color catalogs each year: 12 48-page Bud’s Art Books catalogs of specialty books, and three “Incorrigible” catalogs of erotica, pin-up and more adult material. We do this from our long-time location in Grass Valley, a small town in the Sierras. Our locations allows us to maintain low costs in both overhead and salaries. Most of my experienced and outstanding employees have been with me for more than 10 years–several more than 20 years–including my general manager, Dave Cowie. They know the business backwards and forwards and have long-term relationships with customers as well as publishers. This has allowed me to dramatically step back from the business in the past several years. Today I spend just a few hours each week at the warehouse. I’m more often seen setting up and running our annual booths at the San Diego Comic-Con and at San Francisco’s Wonder Con.
But it’s time for me to take the last step and move the business on to the right person or company. I’ve always been a fan and customer myself of the material we sell. That led me to build a business where customers satisfaction is paramount–based on how I would expect to be treated. This has led to many of our customers staying with us for many years, sometimes for decades. The Bud Plant organization is widely known for exceptionally careful packing and shipping; informed and exceptionally helpful customer service; an outstanding selection of unusual and hard-to-find books with new material being added virtually every day; and our informative catalog descriptions and personal recommendations. We also brought all this to the web with a fully functional website where there is even more information, from multiple pictures of each book to longer descriptions and customer reviews.
We number among our customers tens of thousands throughout the entire world, from well-known artists and illustrators, to teachers, students, collectors and fans of the many genres of material we offer. We’ve also expanded the business in recent years–and thus the name change to Bud’s Art Books–to include a more general book buyer who enjoys nostalgia and pop-culture material. We also have advantageous and valuable terms with hundreds of publishers, the result of years of attending book shows and personally knowing and working closely with publishers. We design all our own catalogs in-house. They are then printed and mailed at the best possible terms by carefully selected printers and mailing houses.
More specific information is available to serious inquiries. I want this to be a smooth transition that ultimately benefits our existing customers as well as the right company who understands the value of owning what may be the most trusted name in the comics and specialty bookselling field.
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.