Home News Business News Shutter report: Rocketship is closed

Shutter report: Rocketship is closed


Rocketship, the innovative Brooklyn comics shop which has been a mecca for graphic novels and forward-looking comics retailing, is closed down, several locals reported to The Beat. The store is currently locked up but with all the stock inside intact.

Reached for comment, co-owner Alex Cox told The Beat that it was a real estate problem and the store might reopen at some point. “We’ve come to the end of a five year lease, and are deciding what to do now. Five years went by fast, and my partner and I are suddenly making some large life decisions about what comes next. We love the shop, and as fun as it is, we have to figure out what makes sense for us on a practical level. 

“Comic retail was never something either of us wanted to do forever, and if it happens that we close, we had a great five year run, and look forward to what comes next. If not, we will be back in the swing of things soon.”

With a lineup of art shows, parties and signings including release parties for the last edition of Scott Pilgrim, Achewood, Brian Wood, Top Shelf and many other notable books, Rocketship has been the center of a social scene in its gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood, as a gathering place for comics readers and creators. It was also in the forefront of the graphic novel store revolution, as comics shops evolved from stores that relied entirely on the weekly periodical market to ones that operated more like bookstores with wide ranging material for all ages stocked in-depth. It was voted the Best Comics Shop by the Village and and New York Magazine and was a finalist for the Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award.

On a more personal level, we’ve spent many a sociable evening at Rocketship hobnobbing with colleagues and friends. It’s the kind of place you want to hang out in and a model for the way comics shops should be run — clean, well-lit, well-stocked and open to anyone of any age or gender. Here’s hoping that Cox can find a way to keep the show going, because the loss of Rocketship would be felt in many corners.

  1. Hats off to Alex and Mary for running a trend-setting poster store for boutique graphic novels. Hopefully their example will help inspire more and better boutique comics retail in the future, and their next endeavors will be met with success!

  2. The world is a better place because of Rocketship. I will always love that store with all my heart. Best wishes to Alex and Mary in whatever they plan to do next.

  3. I will always have many fond Rocketship memories, from their great events – including their kind hosting of book release parties for both volumes of the ISR Awesome anthologies – to just just chatting with Alex on my post-workday visits. I wish Alex and Mary the very best in their futures, wherever their decisions may take them.

  4. “It’s the kind of place you want to hang out in and a model for the way comics shops should be run — clean, well-lit, well-stocked and open to anyone of any age or gender.”

    Was it profitable? That would also measure in to the way a comic shop should be run.

    The fact that they don’t automatically reup the lease lends to the assumption that they might not have been. Might have been fun, clean, well-lit, well-stocked, age, and gender friendly. But they would have changed the comic world if the model had been extremely profitable.

  5. Regan, I would guess they were profitable enough under the old lease but that higher rent on Smith St would cut into the profits enough to make it less attractive. Given that most of the newer stores there cater to a more upscale/gentrified Brooklyn shopper, that Starbucks & American Apparel moved in during their 5 years there, it was probably not a small increase- at least a couple grand. There aren’t a lot of closed storefronts there that stay empty for long.

    Sad to see them close, if that is the case.

  6. That stinks. It was a great shop.

    It should also be noted that their closing does not necessarily indicate poor performance vis-a-vis profitability. “Real estate problems” are a sad fact of life in NYC. There have been many, many, many long-standing businesses in this city that were doing just fine, only to face dramatic rent increases when lease renewal time comes around, especially in hip, gentrified neighborhoods like Cobble Hill.

  7. Amen to what CBRown said — the closings in NYC due to jacked up rents are epidemic. As I’ve moaned about on twitter constantly, my STARBUCKS closed last year due to the owner raising the rent 300%! Not even Starbucks would pay that. And, typically, the store has been empty ever since.

  8. That seems to be the case where a lot of small boutiques are closing in Westwood due to exorbitant rents –

    However, here is a recent case where it was a godsend. DJ’s Universal Comics in Studio City had to close it’s previous location where his rent went from 3 grand to 4 grand, only to move a few blocks up the street on Ventura Blvd where Visual Addiction used to be and now he’s only paying one grand plus a month.

    His store now has greater visibility from the street, better parking, near better places to eat and most likely, better sales.

    Already spotted Bill Mumy at the grand re-opening ceremonies.



  9. Rocketship will always and forever be my comic shop. I heartlessly abandoned Brooklyn for New Jersey a year ago and quickly learned that Alex and Mary had ruined the average comic shop for all time for me. I hope they find a way to keep it going and that Brooklyn doesn’t continue to eat its young.

  10. That’s a shame. The American Apparel will be closed by the end of 2010 as well. That neighborhood has priced itself out of being open for business. The block of Melrose that Golden Apple used to be on is a goddamned ghost town now.

  11. This is a goddamn shame. Rocketship paved the way for more community-serving, indie friendly comic shops in the area like Desert Island and Bergen Street Comics, and I know for a fact that Hanley’s began using the downstairs area for events as a direct response to Rocketship’s model. I realize hard publishing is in a state of transition if not downturn, to say nothing of retailing publications, and I don’t blame Alex if he wants to cash in his chips, but it leaves the comic scene a helluva lot poorer.

  12. Unhappy news! Visiting the shop has always been one of the highlights of MoCCA weekends for me. I’m sad to see such a great little space go.

  13. “Comic retail was never something either of us wanted to do forever”
    -Huh? Then why open the shop in the first place? O.o

  14. People do things all the time that they don’t intend to do forever. I did not intend on answering phones forever, nor working in a shoe store, nor a gas station. I don’t even know if I want to teach forever.

    We’re long past the time that everyone chooses a career and THAT’S IT FOREVER.

  15. Damn… And I was JUST gonna swing by there this weekend, since it’s been way too long.

    First Harvey passes away, now this. What a crap week for comics.

    I’m fairly confident that I’m not the only NYC based cartoonist whose wares found a home at Rocketship first. Hence why this is such a massive shock.

    Hopefully Alex and Mary will find a new home eventually.

  16. Really sad news.
    The reasons are unsuprising.

    I hope there will be another rise of Rocketship in NYC, but the realist in me says that that would be a longshot with NYC real estate being NYC real estate. And people wonder why all of my artist friends are moving out of the city. Just too damned expensive to live there.

    Lance Roger Axt
    The AudioComics Company

  17. A great store, truly a model of how a comics shop should be run. An uncluttered space, a prominent children’s section, numerous events, a fantastic selection…

    Living at the Toppa da Bronx, it’s always a trek to visit, but always worth it! I hope they find a new location, because this type of store is the future of comics retailing.

    Thanks, Rocketship, for an incredible five years, and for proving the concept! Hoping for the best!

  18. I dunno if I buy this whole NYC real estate climbing exponentially in price theory. More likely, Rocketship is just another victim of the awful economy. I mean, good stores are closing everywhere in the country. Unemployment is sky high right now, so it makes sense people with jobs aren’t going to spend as much cash on non-essential goods.

  19. Sad news. This place is one of my go-to places in the neighborhood. I’m a comics writer, and when my first book was coming out Alex gave me a bunch of great advice on getting retailers to stock my stuff. I hope they can figure out a way to stick around, whether in their current location or another spot nearby.

  20. I kick myself now for never making it out there. That’s what I get for being intimidated by the long train ride across the city. I feel like I’ve truly missed something special.

    I hope things work out well for them, either way.

  21. I wish the folks at Rocketship all the best, whether they stay in the comic book/graphic novel business or move on to other ventures. Your shop was always a pleasure to visit, and I made a habit of buying at least one thing every time I was in there (my sweetie at the time could hardly restrain herself and generally bought 3-5 things). You guys were our go-to shop for the widest range of work, with a no-attitude customer service policy.

    I know there’s a lot of speculation on the profitability of your business, the cost of the lease renewal, etc. etc. but I’m wondering if you’d consider opening up your business to other investors/managers/collective structure possibilities? Or relocating to another neighborhood? What the gentrifying landlords never understand is that home-grown businesses like yours are what make a neighborhood chic and pleasant to live in — not the corporate bigwigs like American Apparel and Starbucks who can pad their wallets. I do hope that you all can figure out something to keep this treasure going, or to find other willing hands to take it over.

    And in any case, thank you for a great five years and best of luck for the future!

  22. “People do things all the time that they don’t intend to do forever.”
    -@Joe, well, I mean the examples you gave are of you working for someone else.

    Opening your own place is a very personal thing, and requires a certain amount of passion, I would think. I, too have had a couple of careers, but if I ever opened my own restaurant, I am sure that I would want it to last for my whole life, if not longer.

    That is why I felt what he said was so odd. And especially considering how many people liked and supported their trek into opening the place in the first place, it sounds like the support they are getting, was not from people who expected the place to fold anytime soon, barring economic hardships, like perhaps the reason for this decision in the first place.

  23. While I’ve never been to Rocketship, I always heard nothing but the best things from people who had (especially Dave & Raina). Here’s hoping they either come back or find something else rewarding to do.

    I must admit to a little trepidation in reading this because I also own a comic shop that has been awarded equal “Best Of” and Eisner honors here in Chicago and we also have a 5 year lease…

  24. They were open for business this evening! Here’s hoping they stay that way. This shop is a treasure. Come on out and show your support!

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