With Further Ado #048: Innovation & the Comic Shop Retail Model

This weekend we had an amazing family wedding in Buffalo. Whenever I’m in town, I like to drop in on the local comics shops, especially the funky Gutter Pop and the traditional Queen City Bookstore. (I’ve written about these two shops recently here.)

Just as we were wrapping up all the festivities from our weekend wedding, I tried to squeeze in a stop, and a little retail therapy, at Queen City Bookstore. To my surprise, they were closed in order to devote 100% of their focus Sunday to the Buffalo Comic Con.


The Buffalo Comic-Con is a fun show. Captain Action exhibited there a few years ago and we had a grand time. I had a wonderful time getting to know comic artist Kevin Nowlan as we were on a panel together.

But, still… I was bummed out that Queen City Bookstore was closed. So, I used Waze to guide me out of the city and on the way out, was surprised to see a storefront sign that read: Iron Buffalo Comics. Games. Coffee.

Screeeeech! I mimicked an Adam West “Bat Turn” (minus the parachutes emerging from my car) and my wife Kathe and I stopped in for a visit.

Iron Buffalo is a funky, new comic shop. It’s still in its infancy but you can see that this store, like so many new comic shops, is trying something new.

Here’s how they describe themselves:

Iron Buffalo is Western New York’s newest gaming lounge and coffee bar! It is the manifestation of trendy comic culture combined with just the right amount of gaming, lounging, snacks, and coffee aroma. When you step inside its modern interior featuring hardwood floors, pops of colorful artwork, a large screen to watch endless comic-based movies, and sit down with a cup of your favorite curated coffee, this space immediately feels like home. Patrons are encouraged to hang out with friends and family, and enjoy an amazing time of gaming and conversation. This isn’t just another comic book shop – it’s a unique experience for comic book enthusiasts of all ages!

It’s all the more fascinating given that when we chatted up the guy running the store, he talked about the legendary Queen City Bookstore. He expressed his admiration for that place and explained it had been his local comic shop for most of his life. But with this location, they were looking to push the envelope beyond the traditional comic shop.

There was a lounge and lots of tables for gaming. A big screen TV was playing an old Star Trek episode (“The Enemy Within”, if you must know). The coffee bar was impressive and Kathe ordered a delicious, over-the-top chocolate concoction.

It was interesting, and encouraging, that this store was focused on branding at this stage. There was a case of different Iron Buffalo enamel pins for sale near checkout.

The one thing they didn’t have down was their comics. Our comic-guy/barista sheepishly explained that the were redoing their comics section. He encouraged me to look through their stacks of comics, but their comic retail space clearly wasn’t organized yet.

I dug through the stacks and snagged a recent Avengers issue with a beautiful Phil Noto variant.

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I was also in Rochester recently, and so very impressed with POP ROC, a new comic shop that mashes up the traditional comic store with a cereal bar. Their corporate focus is simply expressed via:


Comics. Cereal. Caffeine.


This shop has a very strong comic section, with new books displayed on a huge wall. Their bargain bin is very robust too, always something this columnist enjoys. This delightful shop also spotlights local artists with a mini-art show. It’s also chock-full of new and vintage comic/pop culture toys and collectibles.

POP ROC is nestled in a hip area with lots of bars, but the co-owner Jason Hilton clearly wanted to try something different. He resisted the easy notion of combining a comic shop and pub. The strong month-after-month business results that POP ROC is enjoying is evidence that he’s onto something.

For several years, I led a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, NYCC, C2E2, etc. called “The 7 Comic Shop Archetypes” where we’d discuss the many different retail flavors of comic shops. It’s nice to see the many new iterations of comic shops popping up.

As we finally got back on the road back to home, Kathe enjoyed her coffee, but wasn’t fully convinced it was a coincidence we drove by Iron Buffalo. “Did you plug that into the app?” she suspiciously asked. But it really was – there’s just a lot of geek culture retail ingenuity popping up everywhere.

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Iron Buffalo is located at 656 Millersport Hwy. Amherst, NY. 14226

POP ROC is located at 337 East Avenue “in the heart of downtown Rochester” NY.