Dragon Lady Comics set to enter the deadpool
On the heels of yesterday's news that the The Book Mark is closing, it seems that there's more bad news for Toronto's independent book/print retailers. Toronto comic-book mainstay Dragon Lady Comics is also set to enter the deadpool. Kevin Boyd was one of the first to report on the news, and after his article was brought to my attention, I headed over to Dragon Lady Comics to see what I could find out about the situation.
According to Joe Kilmartin, the store's manager, Dragon Lady Comics is planning to close its doors for the last time on February 1st, though he suspects that the store will likely remain open until around the 5th of the month to ensure that the store's regulars can pick up their comic book subscriptions one last time. He emphasized that he thinks it's important for the store to honour its obligations to the customers that have helped the store stay open for so long.
To help put the loss into context, I spoke to Peter Birkemoe from The Beguiling who had this to say of the closing, "For someone of my generation, Dragon Lady has simply always been there, an important and unique outpost of comics and culture in Toronto's diverse bookstore landscape." He went on to explain, "It's a little shocking to hear that they're planning on closing — unlike many of the other book shops that have closed over the past few years there has been little sign that anything had changed with the shop. They've remained a great neighbourhood comic shop and a destination for those looking for great old magazines and print material..."
When Birkemoe says the store has always been there he isn't kidding. Dragon Lady Comics has been a part of Toronto's retail fabric since the spring of 1978 when it opened the doors to its Queen West location. More recently, however, the store has operated on College Street since 1996. For a lot of people, the loss of the store will be keenly felt.
As for the reasons for the store's closing, there aren't any surprises here: increasing rent and slowing sales have both contributed to its demise. Kilmartin did mention that the repairs done to the College Street streetcar tracks in 2004 played a significant role in the store's demise. Although the work started way back in 2004, it took over a year-and-a-half for the repairs to be completed, and in that time much of the street's foot traffic was eviscerated. He went on to say that a lot of the business on that stretch of College Street are still suffering from the extended renewal project.
Dragon Lady Comics is not the only store to experience changes in early 2012. Indeed, this year will likely go down as a transitory year for the whole of the city's comic book industry. The Silver Snail, probably the city's most well-known comic book store, is planning to move away from its current Queen West location, though it has yet to announce the actual location it plans to move to. Moreover, Excalibur Comics, an Etobicoke mainstay and my personal go-to store, has seen a reduction of its retail space and times of operation in order to survive.
According to Kilmartin there's unlikely to be a major liquidation at the store in the coming weeks. Instead, owner John Biernat has made preliminary plans to take the remaining stock and keep it in storage before ultimately offering for sale online in some capacity.
Photo by Harvey K on Flickr