After 6 years in business, Bergen Street Comics announced that they were closing up shop and though their publishing arm will continue (and thank goodness otherwise I may literally die from the loss of Copra) it was terribly sad news. Considered to be a staple of the Northeast comics community, Bergen holds a very special place in my heart despite the fact that I’ve only visited a handful times. Perhaps due to this infrequency, each visit felt like a pilgrimage as if not for Tom, Amy, Tucker, and the collective Bergen crew, I may never have gotten into comics beyond readership.
This past weekend, Bergen held their goodbye party where a slew of friends, customers and everyone between came by to drink, reminisce, and make it easier to pack up their stock by buying all of it at a severe discount (I purchased what ended up being an unnecessary second copy the 3rd volume of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys). Saturday I made my last pilgrimage, a quick 20-hour jaunt from Boston to New York and back and boy, I’m glad that I did.
I attended for barely an hour but that was enough; it felt right to breathe the hot and crowded air in Bergen, feel the creak of their well-worn wooden floors beneath my feet and, even at the end, admire the care that went into the design of the store – exposed brick with neat black shelving and comfy cream-colored love-seats filling the frankly odd-shaped space. By merely existing in the store, I feel reenergized and more excited about comics than ever. It seems strange to say, but even an ending can be fun. Might as well go out with a bang, yeah?
I can’t help but be reminded of another purposeful and self-actualized ending, also in New York, where LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy announced that they would have one final titan of a show and then that would be the end of the band. Though perhaps not as grandiose, I can safely say the emotions feel the same. I certainly didn’t know everyone there on Saturday night but in some small way, at that moment, they were all my friends.
Storytime. Back in 2011, I was working a summer internship in White Plains and living in the Bronx about 10 minutes from Fordham. I was broke, but antsy, so I had signed up for an email list that would catalog free or cheap events happening daily and one day, I saw that there was a release party for a new comic way out in Brooklyn and opted to go. This was the opening for Michel Fiffe’s ZEGAS, which I knew nothing about. In fact, this ended up being my first real interaction with a comic store with independently published comics, let alone a store that carried such a wide selection of comics beyond the mainstream. Not knowing it was such a faux pas, I arrived right at 7PM, drenched from the unexpected downpour that had caught me between the subway and the entirely vacant store, save for Amy and Tom – dressed quite nicely with a bottle of champagne they had just opened.
I wouldn’t have blamed them for turning away an awkward college student with squeaky flip-flops and a grubby t-shirt dripping water everywhere, but they were incredibly kind to me, allowing me to blather their ears off until other people arrived. The whole night was paramount experience for me, planting the idea that the comics community was something I wished to belong to – forever changing my life.
What I’m getting at is: thank you. Thank you Tom and Amy and Tucker and everyone who had a hand in making Bergen so goddamned special. I hope you look fondly on these past 6 years and are able to look back at your path to see the positive influence you’ve had on the climate of enjoying and making comics. It sounds like sentimental nonsense, but I mean it. Bergen is in my heart and likely the hearts of many others and there it will stay.
As an old friend used to say to me; “Have fun, stay safe, I’ll see you when I see you.” Bye bye Bergen, and godspeed. Got any good stories or fond farewells for Bergen? Share them in the comments!
You can follow Tom and Amy’s continuing comics work with Bergen Street Comics Press, publishing works such as Fiffe’s Copra and the newly announced Revenger collection by Chuck Forsman.