19-year-old entrepreneur opens pop-culture shop next to EGF theaters
As a 4-year-old growing up in Fargo, Jonan Garcia recalls walking to the comics store each week with his dad, Joe Garcia, to buy a handful of blue gummy sharks and a few comic books.
The choice almost always was Spider-Man for the young Jonan, but his dad was more of a Thor man, favoring the superhero based on the Norse god of Thunder.
Jonan would “bite the heads off the sharks” before they reached home, but they had the rest of the day to pore over their comics. So, the passion began.
Fifteen years later and after amassing 10,000 comic books between them, Jonan has opened his own comic book store in East Grand Forks.
Hollywood Heroes debuted June 18 in the Riverwalk Centre. After only a couple of weeks, Garcia says business has been great.
“Location, location, location,” he says about his choice to open in a spot smack-dab between the entrances to the River Cinema theaters.
“The movies exploded the popularity of comics because all the stories started in comic books,” Garcia said. “I know whenever I saw a movie, I would want to go to the comic book store right away to pick up a book and start reading more about the characters.”
Hardcore comic fans have stayed loyal because they love the stories, Garcia said. The stories never get old, and the people never get too old to enjoy them.
“My dad likes to run around the house with Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer,” Garcia says with a laugh. “He says things like ‘by Odin’s beard’ and swings it around and pretends to shoot lightning.
“My mom thinks we’re nerds, but she likes them, too, the movies for sure.”
In fact, Garcia says women have been some of his best customers — and they are shopping mostly for themselves, not for gifts for their husbands, boyfriends or children.
“What’s surprising to me is a lot of the comic book consumers are women, 51 percent of them now, so men are the minority,” he said.
Before he opened his store, Garcia did a lot of research, but he credits his parents for much of his business sense. His father and mother, Nancy, both had years of experience in retail and management.
This spring, he and his father also took the train to Chicago for the Comic and Entertainment Expo, also known as C2E2 or ComicCon. As many as 70,000 superfans attend the annual three-day extravaganza of pop culture — many dressed in their favorite characters from comics, graphic novels, video games, toys, TV and movies.
Waiting lines outside the convention center are long, and inside it’s packed with a montage of fans, writers, creators, contests, extraordinary costumes and makeup, and artists of all kinds.
“We studied all the different people there. I mean like there was a lot,” Garcia said. “Overall, my goal was to take a piece of that environment and bring it back to Grand Forks.”
Inside the store
Garcia says he knows of no other store in the area quite like Hollywood Heroes. He modeled it somewhat after the Florida amusement park shops he researched on YouTube.
The whole store is a sensory experience. Pandora plays music from “Guardians of the Galaxy” while “Captain America: The First Avenger” plays on a widescreen TV.
Eight red-ringed clocks span the entrance, each set to a different time zone. Smallville, Kan. — the hometown of Clark Kent, aka Superman — is set to local time, of course. Then, there’s Brooklyn time for The Avengers and Spider-Man. And Gotham City for Batman. But time stands still in Krypton. Garcia explains it’s because Superman’s home planet blew up.
One glass case holds an Iron Man helmet and Captain America shield signed by 94-year-old creator Stan Lee. The Garcias met him at ComicCon.
A second case holds probably the most valuable collectible in the store — a graded copy of “The Invincible Iron Man No. 2.” It sells for $476.99.
Garcia sees a bright future for his business. Right now, the young entrepreneur and 2016 graduate of Sacred Heart High School also is working part time at another store while he’s studying business administration at UND.
“This is only the beginning for me,” he said. “I’d like to expand on this and hopefully open up different stores around the Midwest.”