After more than fifteen years at the intersection of 13th Street and Broadway in downtown Manhattan, Forbidden Planet USA, the American arm of the Forbidden Planet International chain and one of the city’s biggest and most popular comic book stores, has moved a few doors down the street to a larger space at 832 Broadway. The new store, which celebrated its grand opening on Tuesday, July 24, boasts 3400 sq. feet of floor space – about a 50% increase – and is able to present all the store’s products (from comic books and graphic novels to action figures, t-shirts, collectibles and more) on one floor, a crucial factor in the move said CEO Rich Bendall and store manager Jeff Ayers.
The move had been in the works for a long time said Bendall and Ayers, who spent about a year and a half scouting potential locations only to choose one in eyeshot of the old space. They then spent about three weeks getting the new space ready, and, after a somewhat wistful last day on Sunday July 22, the store was closed on Monday as employees engaged in a marathon moving session to make the “soft launch” on Tuesday (an official grand opening will occur at a later date). Ayers said what you see right now is just the beginning, and customers can look for more inventory and large scale decorative elements (“the theme is Captain America’s Garage,” said Ayers) to go up on the walls over the next few weeks.
While the corner location had become iconic since Forbidden Planet moved there in 1996, the store simply outgrew it and was looking for something larger and more open. The new building is considerably more spacious, and though it’s filled with all manner of geek paraphernalia, it never feels cramped, a problem for many a comic shop. Making the space more inviting to passers-by was another goal of Bendall and Ayers, who designed the layout and intentionally organized the shelves to make the entire store visible from the street. It’s working too, as the store has seen “a ton of walkthrough” since Tuesday despite actually having less window space, and at night, Forbidden Planet is the brightest spot on the block.
Although only open for a few days, customer response has been extremely positive, a “shock to the system” for longtime buyers, said Bendall, but no less than “amazing.” Business seemsto be benefiting as well – the store had a huge opening Tuesday, and, after being hit hard by the recession, business is up about 6% so far this year (a boost the entire comic book industry has been experiencing). Overall, the entire experience has been positive, said Bendall and Ayers, who have been working around the clock to make Forbidden Planet the best store it can be, and it certainly shows.