Samurai Comics’ new Mesa location back in August when it opened and resembled, in owner Mike Banks’ words, a “comic book yard sale.”
Samurai Comics’ pop-up shop in Mesa, which last month opened the week after Atomic Comics shut down its four stores including one next door, isn’t popping out any time soon.
“We ARE staying here and are working towards a long-term lease,” owner Mike Banks said in an email to Nerdvana. “I anticipate being here through the holidays and hopefully longer.”
But Banks has a backup plan for his foray into the East Valley:
“If we can’t get a deal done here, we have a handful of other locations we are actively negotiating on,” he said. “We hope to have something nailed down in the next couple of weeks.”
Banks said he has added a bunch of fixtures to the store and has spend thousands on inventory, and will soon offer a full line of graphic novels and other comic-related merchandise.
“It is starting to look more like a real store and less like a comic book yard sale,” Banks said. “In the past if you were a comic or gaming fan, Samurai was the store for you. Too often, though, families would walk in, look around, and leave empty handed. Now we have a great selection of products that appeal to everyone.
“We plan to bring that same concept to our Mesa store. When it is done I think the East Valley community will be pleasantly surprised at everything we have to offer.”
In another sign that Samurai is setting in, there now are events taking place at the Mesa store: Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering tournaments at the site — 1120 S. Country Club Drive, Suite 107 — have joined the list of events offered by Samurai’s east Phoenix and Avondale-area locations. (You can find all these events and more on the Nerdvana Calendar page.)
This Saturday, the store will host a Yu-Gi-Oh! regional, which in the past has drawn crowds upwards of 150 at the Phoenix location. “So we are excited to see what we can do with the big space we have in Mesa,” Banks said. “We have also talked to several local creators, including writer Jonathan Layman (Chew, Godzilla) and artist Tony Parker (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Dead Man’s Run) about doing autograph parties at the store in the near future in support of their upcoming projects.
“Expect to see gaming tournaments, autograph parties, anime festivals, even live music in the future.”
If that’s starting to sound a lot like what went on Atomic, it should.
Samurai moved in quickly when Atomic Comics, one of the nation’s most prominent comic book store chains, folded. Easily the heir to Atomic’s spot in the Arizona comics food chain, Samurai was able to secure stock for the area’s smaller operations, effectively acting as a mini-distributor to help them deal with the sudden demand from former Atomic customers. Back in August, Banks told me he had always considered expanding into the East Valley after finding success with his second West Valley store, but he held back out of caution for fear of growing too quickly and becoming unsustainable.