As most comic book readers and collectors will tell you, having a favorite local shop is a must. We have two enthusiastic comic book readers in our family, so comic book shopping is very often a part of our weekend activities. I have a few titles I’ve enjoyed over the years, but my role in these outings is primarily as a mother. Most stores, I’ve found, are not geared toward young shoppers. The aisles are narrow, shelves are full of expensive collectibles, and navigating the layout can be difficult with a young person still learning to be mindful of the others around him where there is just so much to see.
When I learned of the new East Side Mags in Montclair, I expected much of the same. I was pleasantly surprised.
East Side Mags, the only store of its kind in Montclair, was nothing like I expected. I visited the store with my husband and our seven year old son recently and we were immediately impressed. The store is spacious, with plenty of room to browse without knocking into a display of merchandise or a fellow shopper. The walls are lined with rows of newer books, while older back issues sit in four displays in the center of the room. Displays of collectibles are neatly arranged so that everything is visible without straining to see what’s available. The space was so roomy and clean I was able to let my son sit on the floor while I chatted with the owner.
Jeff Beck, the owner and operator of the store, was more than willing to speak with me about his vision. Jeff grew up reading comics and visiting stores. He knows all too well the way some establishments don’t cater to the family and as a result do not encourage young readers to explore the genre. He wanted to create a place where families could gather, browse, and discover new titles in a friendly environment.
Near the front of the store is the Kids Corner, where the titles for the younger readers can be found. The selection of books was neatly arranged in such a way that everything was visible and kids can easily spot the titles and characters that interest them and maybe discover a new favorite. One of the most inviting areas of the store for kids is the chalkboard wall where the young, and young at heart, can draw, sign or decorate in any way they choose. When the wall fills up, Jeff will post a picture to the stores website and social media.
For the adults, East Side Mags offers the standard assortment of items. There is a wide array of comics, graphic novels, toys, games, T-shirts, and trading cards. The twist setting this store apart is this: interspersed among the mainstream titles are indie books. Throughout the store you can find books and prints by local talents. Supporting indie and local work and encouraging the growing movement to shop locally is a big part of what this store is all about.
Another great feature of this store setting it apart from the others is the new comic board. New books come out each Wednesday, and at East Side Mags you don’t have to wonder what’s available. A floor to ceiling chalkboard lists the week’s new releases and issue number. Knowing if your desired title is available couldn’t be any easier.
As if all of this isn’t enough, Jeff is committed to bringing in characters, local musicians, and plenty of other fun events to the store, while still maintaining the family-friendly theme. The specific details of events and promotions are still being finalized and will be announced when possible.