St. Mark's Comics, the venerable East Village comics, graphic novel and pop culture retailer that closed in 2019 after 36 years, announced plans to reopen with a new store in Industry City in Brooklyn on July 30.
St. Mark's Comics co-owner Mitch Cutler, who is reopening the store with his partner Nick Giangarra, said the new store will continue to be called St. Mark’s Comics and will occupy a 1,700 square foot space in Building 5 of the multi-building Industry City complex. Industry City is a mixed-use retail, events, and manufacturing complex near the Brooklyn waterfront along 35th Street that includes 16 renovated buildings originally built in the 1890s.
Cutler told PW he closed the original store in February 2019 because, “I needed to take some time off after working 15 hours a day for 36 years.” After the store closed he worked as a consultant, and did volunteer work during the recent elections and census. But he noted that “people started asking if we were going to reopen even while we were closing down.”
Industry City, he said, reached out to him almost immediately but the “pandemic put everything on hold until late 2020 and then it all came together.” He described IC as "a very New York City feel to it; there are no chains. There are great bars, live events, and it’s our job to bring a little bit of the East Village to Brooklyn.”
Cutler said the new St. Mark's will be “wider and airier” than the old venue on St. Mark’s Place near Third Avenue in Manhattan, which was narrow, dimly lit, and—to the delight of its many loyal customers, which include this reporter—jammed from floor to ceiling with comics inventory and pop culture merchandise of all kinds. The new space, he said joking, will “hopefully be a lot tidier” than the old ground-level East Village space.
The store will offer “the same depth and breadth of comics and graphic novels," he said. Cutler is in the process of hiring new staff and reaching out to old staffers, though he acknowledged “many of them have moved on to new careers.” The store is looking to acquire old comics collections, and he said, he’s building new custom-made versions of the original store’s distinctive wooden shelving. The store will also add “a bigger and deeper” selection of vintage toys, thanks to his partner, Giangarra, who specializes in the category and will manage it.
St. Mark’s Comics is a direct market comics shop; it’s among the 2,000 independent comics shops around the country that traditionally order their stock at wholesale terms on a nonreturnable basis primarily from Diamond Comics Distributors. However, since the original store closed, the direct market has gone through a major change with the entry of Penguin Random House Publisher Services as a distribution vendor. PRH has taken over the exclusive distribution of Marvel super hero periodical comic books—a mainstay of the comics shop market—as well as Marvel graphic novels to direct market comics shops.
Cutler said he welcomed a new opportunity to work with multiple distribution vendors. “We’re starting with fresh eyes, but we’re informed by more than 40 years in this business,” he said, noting an earlier period before comics distribution consolidated around a single dominant vendor. “We’re excited to work with PRH, their terms [50% wholesale discount and free shipping] are a real difference maker and could have an enormous impact on comics shop retailers.”
“Now that we’ve announced the July 30 opening, we’re stuck,” Cutler joked, noting that he’s racing to get the space prepared. “This is a spectacular opportunity. We’re all grateful for the outpouring of support for the new store. Industry City is a delightful place and it’s an adventure to build the store back from scratch, but this time with all the resources we always wanted.”