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LCS Spotlight: Stairway to Heaven Comics

By Courtney Key

This week’s shop was recommended by our own contributor Gary Chapin, who “stumbled into” Stairway to Heaven Comics in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a business trip. Having seen photos of the stairs down to get to the shop, I hope he didn’t mean that literally! His first visit made him such a fan that he’s returned several times, and snapped some of the photos below. Gary describes the shop as “welcoming, filled with light, and, of course, comics.”

Shop owner Brad has been in business for just a little over a year, but from his answers below it seems that his shop is already building a strong and positive comics community in his corner of New Hampshire.

Shop Name: Stairway to Heaven Comics
Location: 121 Water Street; Exeter, NH 03833 (under the Water Street Bookstore)
Hours: We open at 11:00 on weekdays and 10:00 on the weekend. We close at 5:00 on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, 6:00 on Thursday, and 8:00 on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Website/Social Media:
Stairway to Heaven Comics on Facebook
The shop also sends a weekly email to subscribing customers.

Stairway to Heaven Comics owner Brad poses for Gary Chapin's camera.
Stairway to Heaven Comics owner Brad poses for Gary Chapin’s camera.

How long has your shop been open?

My shop has been open for 15 months. We opened September 1, 2013.

The shop is mainly about comics, but we also carry board games, posters, statuettes, action figures, collectible card games such as Magic the Gathering, and other pop culture knick knacks.

Do you focus strictly on comic books, or do you sell other things? Do you focus on a particular type of comic (ex. indie vs. Big 2 comics)?

I prefer independent comics, but the shop gives space to mainstream stuff as well. I’d like to think we devote more space to independent comics than most shops our size.

What do you think is the biggest barrier to new readers, diverse readers, and women entering and feeling comfortable in a comic shop, and/or reading comics in general?

Perhaps the biggest barrier to getting new readers into comics is the overwhelming nature of the industry. There is so much back story and so many titles out there that many potential customers feel it is too much. Also, I feel that there is still a stigma regarding comics in mainstream society. Comics are perceived as a medium for misfits or subpar reading material. Although this negative impression is less prevalent these days, it is still an issue.

Staff member C.M., appropriately wearing a Thor shirt for Gary's Thorsday visit.
Staff member C.M., appropriately wearing a Thor shirt for Gary’s Thorsday visit.

What has your shop done to encourage new readers to come in, and to develop new comic readers? Do you have any events reaching out specifically to women, minorities or LGBT readers?

Although I’d like to see an even more diverse base of customers in my shop, I am thus far encouraged by the diversity of customers I see. Women especially are frequent shoppers. I think this is due to an overall improvement in the portrayal of women in comics (stronger characters and more realistic portrayals) as well as the rising prominence of female creators in the industry. It is exciting to see women creating powerful indie comics as well as taking the reins of some mainstream comics.

Our shop encourages new readers in several ways. The people who work here genuinely like comics, and we like to talk to people about comics. We especially like to recommend comics that we think are good and might appeal to a specific customer’s taste.

Furthermore, the shop is set up so that comics for younger readers are readily available at or near the entrance. The variety of comics for young readers is better than ever and caters to a diverse readership.

We offer art classes for kids and teens to encourage the development and appreciation of comic art.

We also host a women’s comic discussion group, called Jinjur’s Army, who meet once a month.

Does your shop engage in any activities to involve the wider community in your city and make them aware of comics?

We participate in Free Comic Book Day in May. Our first FCBD was very successful, and we hope to expand this event in the future to include more local businesses.

Tell us anything else you think is special about your shop.

StHC also hosts creator signings for independent comics, and provides a safe and fun environment for young people to play games such as Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Pathfinder, D & D, and various board games.

The rack at Stairway to Heaven Comics provides easy, uncrowded browsing for customers.
The rack at Stairway to Heaven Comics provides easy, uncrowded browsing for customers.

Do you know of an awesome local comic shop you’d like us to spotlight? Get in touch via the comments below, the “Talking Comics LCS Spotlight” thread on the forum, or email me with the subject line “Talking Comics LCS Spotlight.” Please include the shop’s website or social media account, and a brief description of why you think the shop deserves to be featured here on Talking Comics.

Courtney is a returning reader to the world of comic books, drawn back in by the power of Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Loki in the MCU and her attraction to broken antagonists with questionable hair. Favorite titles she's currently reading…

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