By Lisa Huberman
Early in April, I sat down with Mike Giordano and Nick Mitch, who just opened up a comic book shop on Broadway in Astoria. Below are some excerpts from that conversation.
Lisa: What made you decide to open up a comic shop in Astoria?
Mike: Well, we come from Forest Hills—we’re established there about 25 years. And Nick, local to Astoria approached me and said he’s tired of spending three hours to come see us over at Forest Hills, and he said maybe we’ll give it a go over here. Found us a reasonable place—Nick, whatya gotta say?
Nick: That’s kinda how it went. I was tired of going out to Forest Hills—and more importantly was that there were so many days that I wanted to go to Forest Hills, go to the shop, and I just couldn’t get there. And then I’d look at my watch and it’d be six o’clock or whatever, and I knew they were closing—it is, it’s three hours. You know, a half hour there, a half hour back, and then at least an hour or two in the store. And it would take up a whole afternoon.
And there was nothing around here, or close to here that resembled anything like Royal Collectibles Forest Hills. The people—not just the products—the people. The products in the store you can get online, there’s a million places you can do this. But the interaction with the people—his entire staff there, it’s a family. You feel it. You feel that vibe. You ask a question, they help you. They’re honest. I’ve been around a long time—I’ve been in this game for years—go back to beanie babies and cabbage patch kids. It’s very rare you find honest, truly honest dealers. Honest people. Everyone’s out for a quick buck in the moment—and I’ve seen it in all kinds of collectibles. And I’ve never felt that at Royal Collectibles with Forest Hills. I always felt that I got a fair deal, if not a good deal. I felt that I always walked away with some information that I didn’t know going in.
I said to Mike, just in conversation—if you ever think about expanding Royal’s name, why don’t you come closer to us—come west! And go to like Astoria or Long Island City, or whatever. And he just kind of said, “yeah,” and then a few months later, he said to me—“would you be interested?” And I said, “Well, yeah—yeah, okay.” A friend—another friend of ours—another person, who’s not here, Joe, between Joe and I we have a massive collection of vintage comic books and toys that you see here—and he said “Yeah, you know—why not?” I’m 55 years old—why not try a new adventure? Something different in life?
So what made you decide that a comic book shop in 2019 was the right move for Astoria? Because I know I’ve been reading about comic book shops closing all over the city—why did you think this was a smart decision, especially for Astoria, for now?
Nick: I’m gonna start, and then you can finish it. On the start that we have enough gourmet delis, we have enough coffee shops, we have enough cafes, we have enough hookah bars—we needed something different. And you’re right: a lot of places are closing, and it’s scary as hell—and I can tell you how many sleepless nights I have had, and how many nightmares I’ve woken to. And the fear that’s existed—however, with the support of some very close friends, and with the support of Mike, and his staff, this was a good time to do it—while it may seem you know economy-wise, things are crazy—you know worried about jobs or whatever and collectibles and toys and comics—people still need their escapes. They still need their entertainment. They still need to live their fantasy life, which we all live—I do too. I have my particular things I like. So while it’s risky—and trust me, it is risky, and it is scary—on the other side of it, there’s still a need for it. People still want—we get people who walk by the store and you can hear them with the door open saying, “Wow! A comic book shop opened! We gotta go in!” I’ve had people come and say, “I just wanted to step in for a minute, I gotta run, but I’ll be back—we’re so glad that you opened.” And so when you get that kind of return—you did something right. I’ll leave it to you.
Mike: Yeah, it’s what Nick said—it’s escapism, it’s enjoyment. It’s a little break from the everyday. Everyone works hard—and they get some enjoyment out of these stories of these characters. Or whatever it is, whether they’re collecting—Funko Pops and action figures—it’s a little respite from all the rest. Whether the economy’s doing well or not, good times and bad, people still need the ability to just kind of check out and enjoy themselves I think. (more…)