Monday, June 17, 2013

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Yesteryear

By: Annik Prasad

Michael Cholak now realizes what his parents did when they took him to a comic book store some 30 years ago. His parents encouraged him to pick up five or six comic books, and being a child of the Star Wars generation, he grabbed Star Wars issues one through six. He recalls the shock on his parents’ faces when they saw the $42 bill, but they did it. They put it on a credit card. “I don’t know how long it took them to pay it off,” he shared with a smile. Michael had always struggled with reading, but his parents knew this would be his the secret to his success. “I read and reread them. Within six months, my reading improved by two grade levels.”

Michael toyed with idea of opening a comic book store for over a decade. San Diego did not have what he calls a “traditional” comic book store. “A lot of dealers, in my opinion, forgot the fundamentals. The books are meant to be fun, escape from everyday problems. A lot of dealers can’t drop their fanboy status…they take care of their own collectible needs. When customers enter a comic book store they may get a ‘how’s it going’ but there’s no real communication.”

Determined to do it different , Michael opened Yesteryear Comics on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard in 2012. A Chase banker referred him to Accion and he took out a $35,000 Accion loan to get things started. He put a portion to advertising on Rock 105.3 and quickly made enough money to do some more advertising with Marvel, one of the world’s largest comic distributors. Advertising with Marvel caused business to double, exceeding all his expectations.

One of Michael’s favorite things is personally interacting with his customers and making comic recommendations according to their interests. Recently, a military lieutenant walked in with his kids and asked for help. Michael suggested a Batman comic, and not only did the kids become return customers, but the lieutenant rediscovered his love for comics! “He is probably reading 20-25 different books a month now. His kids too.”

For Michael, it is not just about making the sale, but helping customers discover or rediscover a character that grabs them. He estimates that people who have not read comics in 10-15 years, make up 35-40% of his customers. Furthermore, Michael is passionate about paying forward the gift of reading that his parents gave him. “It sounds weird, but kids just don’t read anymore. Not like they used to,” shared Michael. He admits he was caught off guard by how many parents walk in looking for ways to get their kids off of computers and iPods. One regular customer comes all the way from Newport Beach. “She’d pick up a whole bunch of comics and take them to her son. A month later, he’d absorbed them and needed more.”

Sales are increasing month after month and sales for June may set a record for Yesteryear, particularly because of the recent released of Superman Unchained celebrating Superman’s 75th anniversary. He is also hoping that Comic-Con in July will bring in additional revenue as hoards of comic book lovers visit the city. A huge supporter of the event, he is adamant that this world famous convention does not end up leaving San Diego. “It brings in huge revenue for San Diego,” shared Michael. “If it goes anywhere else, it’s going to hurt San Diego.”

What’s next? Michael’s plan is to keep growing. The store is already outgrowing its retail space and he expects to have to double space and add staff, especially with the new Kaiser hospital set to open next door in 2017.

Yesteryear Comics
9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92123

1 comment:

  1. What a great way to get kids reading more, bravo to Michael! And thank goodness he seems to know the power of conversation! I can't stand when I walk into a privately owned store and get a barely audible, 'Hey...'. Come on!