Writer Wars Round 3: Brick n’ Mortar by Jonathan Hedrick
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Nowadays everything is easily accessible from a keyboard, phone, or tablet. We can download movies with a push of a button. Almost anything in the world can be delivered to our door steps in 2 days. This present state of instant consumerism has even sunk its claws into the world of comic books. Almost every issue is digitized now and can be read anywhere. Auction websites offer a platform for sellers from all over the globe to sell their merchandise. But you can't get that digital comic signed by your favorite artist at a convention and you don't really know what that book you purchased online will look like until you have it in hand. Brick n' Mortar is a column dedicated to comic books stores that still offer a physical presence and that extra care you won't get from a dot com.
A few miles away from the beaches and about an hour away from Orlando is Melbourne, Florida where 9.9 Comics calls home. Founded in 2015 by Matt Moller, 9.9 is just the right amount of comic store you need. Not to overwhelming in square footage but plenty of beautiful collectibles floor to ceiling that will make it worth your visit. On any given day you'll find Star Trek: The Next Generation playing on the TV in back by the couch. A coffee table in the same area will have the latest issue of Previews and some fliers for upcoming events. As a collectors' store, 9.9 also is a CGC authorized dealer. Want to get that issue pressed before it's sent out? Matt can take care of that too with the in-store pressing that's offered to all of his customers.
What really sets this store apart from others is Matt's pride for the quality in the products he sells, (hence “9.9” in the name). For example, let's say this month's issues of The Walking Dead come from the distributor banged up with dinged corners. Matt doesn't say “oh well” and put them on the shelves. No, he notifies his 300+ subscribers and tells them that the books don't meet his standards, he's returning them, and he'll have the better copies ASAP. This is the kind of finesse that his customers have come to know and appreciate. Every comic book comes bagged and boarded at no additional cost because Matt demands a level of quality be maintained as long as the item is in the store.
In addition to providing weekly subscriptions for the local clientele, 9.9 Comics also offers an annual membership for a small price that provides a discount on virtually everything in the store. Members also meet periodically at private events with food, beverages, and gift bags to take home. These customers get a chance to chat about what hot books they're reading and which variant covers they're excited about the most.
But being a brick-and-mortar store doesn't mean 9.9 is an enemy of the world wide webs. In fact, they have come to embrace it with their own website that offers up-to-date comic book news as well as some items in the store that can be purchased online. What's really first-rate is their social media presence. Throughout the week Matt will post pictures on Facebook of comics and collectibles that will be available in a few days. Putting that item on hold is as easy as posting a comment saying “Cover B for me,” and it's done. Also, the store releases two weekly videos on YouTube. One being a brief list of the main issues coming out that week. The second is filmed in the store with two hosts, Chris and Kyle, who breakdown their top 5 must haves for the week with #1 being the “9.9 No Brainer.”
So if you find yourself coming to Brevard County, Florida for a rocket launch or maybe a vacation in Cocoa Beach, take a small detour to 9.9 Comics. You'll be met with open arms and will leave after a great conversation with Matt. You can't buy that type of hospitality online.
– Jonathan Hedrick