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Santa Rosa comic store making a go of it with game sales

You won’t find Dan Radovic complaining in the middle of a pandemic. The owner of Outer Planes Comics and Games remains optimistic about his store’s future, even amid months-long closures this year and significantly reduced sales.

“I always prepare for the worst, and this is more than you can really prepare for, but I was pretty proactive about it,” said Radovic, who opened the downtown Santa Rosa store 15 years ago. “We can hang on as long as it takes.”

Outer Planes is a community hub for graphic and comic book collectors, Dungeons & Dragons players, board game enthusiasts and role playing games. It’s open daily now after it closed from March to June during Sonoma County’s first shelter-in-place health order, and it’s especially busy on Wednesdays for free comic day.

Online and curbside pickup orders were offered during the closure, but the store only made 10% of its normal sales during that period, Radovic said.

Half of the store is a seating area dedicated to gaming, tournaments, comic book signings and other events, and during the pandemic it remains off-limits. “That's a big part of our business, so that hurts,” he said. “But it's definitely better to be open than not.”

Radovic’s landlord has reduced the rent at his Mendocino Avenue building and he’s applied to a few government programs for small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Albert Perez, general manager at Outer Planes for about three years, said one of the weird things about the pandemic is not seeing customers who came in weekly to play D&D or board games.

“They all looked forward to coming out and seeing the people that they play games with every week, so I know that's been hard for a lot of our customers,” said Perez, a board game enthusiast.

Board games sales have been steady as customers look for entertaining activities they can do at home, outside of the excessive screen time people have with Zoom calls and work-from-home schedules.

Currently Perez enjoys playing Carcassonne, a tile-laying game inspired by a medieval fortress in southern France, and a game called Patchwork. Both are easy to learn but involved enough strategy to be fun and interesting.

“Patchwork is a two-player game so it’s great right now with the pandemic,” he said.

During the closure this spring, Radovic took the time to remodel the store, reorganizing sections like the board games at the front of the store and the miniatures by the back counter.

The walls inside Outer Planes are painted purple and green as a tribute to the Hulk, Radovic’s favorite comic character. Original art of the Hulk by local and visiting artists is displayed around the shop.

“He's got the brute side, but then he's got this brilliant scientist brain kind of arguing with him all the time,” Radovic said of the Hulk, a Marvel character who debuted in 1962. “Even when he's fighting other superheroes, he's always the one that tries to protect the general public from collateral damage.”

Lively discussions of comic book characters are commonplace among the staff at Outer Planes, and it’s that zest and knowledge that regulars say keep them coming back.

Devrin Sonmez, a stay-at-home dad from Windsor who’s a regular at the store, stopped by the shop Wednesday to purchase a couple of X-Men comic books.

“I like it here because the people are very friendly and nice,” he said.

Roland Ralston of Santa Rosa bought two comic books this week from Outer Planes: “Murder Falcon” and “The Umbrella Academy,” which was adapted into a popular Netflix TV series. He hadn’t expected to leave the shop with “Murder Falcon,” but purchased it after a rave recommendation by Tom Beland, an Eisndser Award-winning cartoonist who works at the store.

“It’s clean, open, and the staff is informative and helpful,” Ralston said about the store.

“And they have a great dog,” he added.

Half husky and half pit bull, Radovic’s dog, Valhos, is a friendly, gentle young dog who quietly wanders or lies around the store.

Outer Planes opened on March 15, 2005, about a block away from its current Mendocino Avenue location, where it’s now been for nine years.

Recent online sales of comic books and other items are done through a variety of platforms, including Facebook Marketplace and eBay. “We’re trying all different avenues,” Radovic said.

Now that the store is open again — with social distancing, hand sanitizer and masks required — people are slowly streaming back in again and employees continue to share their enthusiasm for comics.

Tom Beland has worked at Outer Planes for five years and is a freelance cartoonist for Marvel, D.C. and other publications.

Stroll through Outer Planes, and it’s hard to miss Beland’s art. There’s the Hulk drawing he gave to Radovic, Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” series and his latest graphic novel, “Chicacabra,” which was inspired by his decades of living in Puerto Rico and optioned for a movie by famed pop star Selena Gomez.

“I always like to include Puerto Rico in my work,” said Beland, who won his Eisner Award, the highest honor in American cartooning, for a story called “Puerto Rico Strong.”

Beland usually draws in coffee shops near the store, which he said he misses during the pandemic. But he’s glad to be surrounded by fellow comic book lovers at Outer Planes.

“I love comic shops. Comic books excite me. That paper smell is like new baby smell. It’s so ingrained in me,” he said.

With creative artists around the shop, and community and government support, Radovic said he believes the store will survive the pandemic and stick around for years to come.

“Everyone's being really accommodating and as long as that keeps up, I think we can ride this out,” Radovic said.

Sours: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/santa-rosa-shop-making-a-go-of-it-with-game-sales/

Outer Planes Comics and Games

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Most Recent Comments

  • May 2021

    There was a guy there named Albert who helped me a lot knowing what cards to get for magic the gathering and I was even a Mormon missionary then best place!

  • March 2021

    Full Service Comic book store. Has it all and then some. Also has a huge room used for magic games I believe. All your comic needs at fair prices. Definitely recommend!

  • March 2021

    Combination comic, rpg, ccg store with a bit of boardgaming. If you are looking for comics or cctg cards this is your kinda shop. With the role playing they have a little of everything current. The boardgame selection was decent for a small combo store.

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    Outer Planes: More than just a comic shop

    “Rocks fall, reflex save or die.” “I bolt your bird.” “That resolves.” “Seven to you.” Outer Planes Comics and Games is abuzz with nerd jargon every day of the week.

    For people who consider video, card or tabletop games a way of life rather than just a hobby, a social life can be hard to come by. Outer Planes Comics and Games about a mile away from Santa Rosa Junior College manages to bring together gamers from all genres and encourage a social and open atmosphere among them.

    The store recently moved to its current location on Mendocino Avenue where they expanded their floor space and created a more welcoming game zone.

    Dan Radovic has owned and operated Outer Planes for 11 years and said it really hasn’t changed much since its inception. “When comics are down, games are up; when games are down, comics are up,” Radovic said.

    Comics may seem like the shop’s main focus at first glance, Radovic said, but “Gaming makes up two-thirds [of our sales]; card-gaming takes up about half of that.” Games are slowly becoming a major portion of the business and its community, Radovic said. The owner is constantly working on creating a stronger gaming atmosphere and promoting the formation of themed groups. Of course, the business does have a massive selection of comics.

    In the future, Radovic said, “I’d like to see them make more good comic book movies.” He’d like the shop to appeal to both the gaming and comic community equally with more signings and guest appearances, when the budget makes it possible.

    For Outer Planes’ customers, the shop is a haven for games, comics, cards and just hanging out with like-minded people obsessed with the same things they are. “The community here is the most welcoming to new players of any card shop I’ve visited,” said longtime customer, card gamer and SRJC student Elijah Murphy, 18. He commutes from San Rafael to SRJC and loves that Outer Planes is so close and easy to visit when in town for class. Magic: the Gathering, a popular card game played almost around the clock at Outer Planes, is what Murphy spends most his time playing while there.

    Tanner Kohl, another player of the same card game, is new to Outer Planes but feels there is a strong community that welcomes new people and encourages social interaction. Kohl describes the business as having “a really friendly atmosphere. I really enjoy the people.”

    Getting paid to do what you love is everyone’s dream and is one that has become a reality for Outer Plane’s employee and longtime customer Josh Shroyer. He marvels at the fact the average customer has a lot of reasons to not leave their house and not come to a store like Outer Planes with the advent of the internet and everything at their fingertips. Despite this, Shroyer says they have a lot of dedicated customers.

    “The general philosophy has always been the same…to make the customer No. 1,” Shroyer said.

    Sours: https://www.theoakleafnews.com/arts-entertainment/2015/12/07/outer-planes-more-than-just-a-comic-shop/
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