Arizona’s Samurai Comics, which already has locations in Phoenix, Mesa and Glendale, is expanding to Chandler.
Owners Mike and Moryha Banks teased the news on the stores’ social media channels on Wednesday:
Mike Banks confirmed in a Thursday email to Nerdvana that the new Samurai Comics Chandler location will be at 1994 N. Alma School Road, in the Warner Plaza neighborhood shopping center. He even said efforts are underway to open the new store in time for the holiday shopping season. (After a sneak preview period Dec. 19-24, the new store will open its doors officially on Jan. 5, 2021, after holiday break.)
“2020 continues to be crazy,” he said. “In April I was wondering if we would have to close down one or more of the stores, and here we are in December with all three stores doing well and working on opening a fourth.”
Samurai’s Phoenix location is at 1602 E. Indian School Road; Mesa at 1120 S. Country Club Drive, #106; and Glendale at 6808 N. Dysart Road, #148. The new Samurai Comics Chandler location, he said, is “absolutely perfect” for the Valley business.
“I was there today for a little while and people kept walking by and stopping and looking in. I feel really good about it,” Banks said. “Of all of our various locations, this one offers the most foot traffic of all.”
Mike Banks credits Moryha’s initiative and hustle for securing the location, just as she did when launching the business in Mesa when Atomic Comics closed up shop back in 2011.
“We’ve always subscribed to the idea of comic shops being ‘destination locations’ — you build it and the fans will come,” he said. “And I do believe that is true. Paying high rent rates to be in next to some big anchor store never made sense to me.
“Our Phoenix store is our top earner, and our only neighboring business is a small sandwich place, Luke’s of Chicago. That store has great visibility though, which helps our walk-in business.”
At a time when most small businesses are struggling, Mike Banks recognizes that Samurai Comics — which has faced its own struggles in the pandemic — is fortunate to be expanding its footprint.
“We didn’t really have any intention of opening another store — especially not now,” he said. “That being said, I’m ALWAYS scouting out new locations for possible store moves, new stores, etc. In this case, the lease on our Mesa store ends the middle of next year. We wanted to do our due diligence and see what was open in the area just in case. My daughter had a cross country meet in Chandler, and due to COVID concerns parents weren’t allowed to be spectators. Most of the parents dropped their kids off and went to get breakfast, Me? I drove around the area scouting possible comic shop locations.”
The Bankses looked at several shopping centers and developed a new appreciation for Chandler. “We live in the heart of central Phoenix, and other than going to our Mesa store, are rarely in the East Valley,” Mike Banks said. “I was impressed with the energy of the area. So many great schools and neighborhoods — a key component for us since we’ve worked so hard to be a family-oriented business.”
Even better? The new storefront is pretty much ready to go.
“Every single store we have built has involved a LOT of work— tearing down walls, putting up walls, new floors, slat wall, the list goes on,” he explained. “This spot though already had slat wall throughout and a counter area ready to go — a total pop-up store opportunity.”
The surrounding businesses are a good fit as well, Banks said. “There is a lot of synergy there with our business and some of the neighbors, like Sweeties, an AMAZING huge store filled with every type of candy you can imagine, from nostalgic favorites, to cool specialty candy with pop culture relevance. There is a great coffee shop — SoZo. Some great eateries like Zorba’s Greek Cafe …”
Banks said making this move in the middle of a pandemic and the associated economic uncertainty reminds him of when the couple moved their original store during the 2008 recession housing market collapse. “We were on the ropes, trying to figure out what we were going to do if we had to close our business. Our lease was coming up, and instead of doing the sensible thing and renegotiating for less rent and staying put, we moved the store to a spot twice as big for a little more rent …
“That turned out to be one of the best moves we ever made.”