Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Retail Therapy Part VI: G-Mart Comic Books

(This post is part of an ongoing series where I attempt to visit every single comic book store within Chicago city limits. You can read more about it here!)

Location: 2641 N Kedzie in Logan Square
Public Transit: Nearest buses are the Diversey (76) and Milwaukee (56); Nearest train is the Blue line Logan Square stop.
Hours:
Monday: 12-7
Tuesday: 12-7
Wednesday: 12-8
Thursday: 12-7
Friday: 12-8
Saturday: 12-7
Sunday: 12-6
Website: www.g-mart.com

G-Mart Comic Books has flown under my radar for several years, and I suspect that may be the case for many Chicago comic book fans. Geographically, it is not easy to get to for a Northsider like myself. Located in Logan Square, it took a good hour to reach, and even when I was in the neighborhood, I still managed to miss it despite being across the street. After wondering too far down Kedzie, I stopped at a local 7-11 and asked the employees if they knew where the comic book store G-Mart was located. Befuddled looks then led to long explanations about how no no, not around here, maybe on the North side, but, no way man, I don't think so. In truth, I was just about a block north of where I needed to be, but you'd think I was asking where to find Lake Michigan. G-Mart isn't quite the rarity the locals might think, but it is true that the West side of Chicago has less stores than the North side. G-Mart could definitely use some more obvious signage to indicate its presence considering it sits at a major intersection within view of the Logan Square blue line, and yet I have never noticed this store, even when I was in search of it.
Hey, I have a Batman standee in my living room, too!
Walking into G-Mart feels like entering a friend's living room that also happens to be a comic book store. Complete with a large couch, coffee table, and television, you can immediately find refuge from the cold and browse a book while you defrost. The only thing missing is an Ikea lamp and rug to bring the room together. I find a lot of stores have couches these days, but G-Mart has one that is actually large and comfortable. Molly and Ryvre, the two gals working the store during my Saturday evening visit seemed to easily avoid the temptation to lounge as they were busy with filing and other work behind the counter. They were both friendly and open to offering their opinions on books without it feeling like pressure to purchase. Everyone that came in during my visit was treated like an old friend. Conversations seemed to pick up where they left off, pull lists were handed out without prompting. The atmosphere and general familiarity between customers and employees is easy to understand considering the store's history. The owner opened G-Mart in part because he realized he could get enough of his pals together to qualify for a discount if they all bought their books directly from the publishers. That favorable arrangement extends to customers today as qualifying club members receive a generous 35% off their subscriptions. After opening the first G-Mart in Champagne, IL, the owner extended the discount-for-friends model by opening this second location in Chicago. He now lives in New York but the Logan Square store is clearly left in capable hands while he runs the online store.
The new issue selection is quite large and varied, but you'll have to request any back issues
On to the merchandise! G-Mart has a decent selection of new titles, with the issues arranged by DC, Marvel, and Independent. G-Mart places some of their new trades on the same shelves as the individual shelves. As retail therapy continues, this is quickly becoming a re-occuring pet peeve of mine. I have yet to see one store successfully, nay, consistently accomplish this task. Visually it breaks up your line of sight, like seeing a semi parked amongst cars. A "new this week" trade shelf is sorely missed in many shops, not just G-Mart. Considering how many trades are released each week of long finished series, re-releases, and graphic novels, these don't have a place among the new issues, so why find a spot just for the latest Amazing Spider-Man reprint?

The majority of the trades are organized by genre, many of which are ones I haven't seen before. There are sections for music, critically acclaimed titles, superhero prose, GLBT, Noir, zombies, and a few creator specific ones (someone who works here is a big Straczynksi fan). Organizing books in this ultra-detailed manner gives the impression of a much larger selection than is actually present in the store. This is surely a good thing since I found myself noticing books that probably would have been lost in the shuffle if they had simply been alphabetized. The more stores I see, the more certain I am that arranging titles by genre is more successfully accomplished with trades than floppy issues. G-Mart also has a small selection of back issues that consist of quarter books and dollar books. Some of these titles are debatable as to which bin they belong in considering books in both bins look pretty beat up without bags and boards, but either way you can easily find good deals. Just don't expect to find any books from before the 80's. G-Mart actually has an extensive back issue collection sold mainly through the website, but the books themselves are on the premises albeit out of site. The staff will happily provide the issues upon request! (See comments for further explanation)
Molly (left) holds up an issue of Unwritten, a title recommended by herself and Ryvre (right)
One of the employees, Ryvre, makes several speciality items that are sold in the store. These include t-shirts of her own design and buttons made from recycled comics. You can also purchase posters designed by employees, and the manager Paul will sketch characters for you if you ask. Beyond the handmade offerings, there are a few statues and Hero Clix, but no action figures and little in the way of novelty items. (Surely the Captain Hammer t-shirt makes it worth venturing to the West side?) Molly and Ryvre claim that the welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff are enticing for Chicago comic fans during the winter, and they will also be hosting D&D in store. Even on a frigidly cold Saturday night, G-Mart shoppers were out in full force, proof of the store's appeal. Like many gems in Logan Square, the locals may want to keep this store a hidden secret. Here's hoping that recommendations like mine will help change G-Mart from beloved shop of hip-to-it Westsiders to worthwhile destination for Chicagoland comic book fans.

So there appears to be some sort of "blizzard" descending upon Chicagoland at the moment; luckily I have a few stores yet that I have visited but simply haven't published. I will also be posting a mid-point update / reflection once I hit my 10th store! You can see the progress here on the blog, and also on this handy google map where I mark the locations of the stores as I visit them.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the write-up, Megan! We really appreciate it.

    G-Mart actually has, and it's not obvious from the cozy store-front appearance, 100,000 back issues. Not kidding. That's a lot. They're at the Chicago store, in the back.

    So if you don't see it, ask. They're not out in front because of the building layout, and because they're cataloged online for our online customers...you can purchase them online and pick them up at the store. (A good chunk of our business is mail-order and subscriptions.)

    You can, OF COURSE, also ask us at the store and purchase the comics there as well.

    Thanks again for the write-up, and sorry that our back issue section was not as obvious as it should be.

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  2. Thanks for pointing this out to our readers. I'll be sure to direct others to the comment section!

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  3. I am looking for all Kick Ass issues and I was wondering if you guys could help me.? my name is Adrian by the way which is really not that important. lol

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