Friday, September 24, 2010

Ode to a Flying Horse

I was at work today, and I realized something: I'm part of something pretty special.
Let's rewind.

So, I was standing there at the counter, and a guy walks in and leans his skateboard on a bookshelf out of the way and begins browsing the shop. He was pretty average looking, in his early twenties. I started a conversation with him, and found out he had lived in Bend when he was a little kid, but moved to Portland and then California, and now is back in Bend. He told me that he could remember coming in here all that time ago and reading comics, and that he even remembered talking to the first owner, Mike Richardson, when he'd stop in. He had even lived down the street from Dark Horse Publishing (which Mike founded), when he lived in Portland. He had quite a few memories from this store and the people in it. He said that he hadn't even thought about coming in, but he was downtown and decided to check if we were still there.

I thought that was pretty cool, but I didn't think much of it.

That is, until another guy, perhaps a bit older than the first, came in with a very similar story. He was only visiting, but he too had moved away, and still had memories of the store. And thinking back, there have been a decent amount of others over the months that had shared similar experiences.

That's when I kind of realized a new appreciation for that place. What does that say about the impression the store leaves? Even though they'd only been in as young children, they still had extremely vivid and positive memories of the store. It's really pretty amazing. I doubt most people have that sort of emotional attachment to a place that's not their home. Does anyone remember their first McDonald's? Their first Toys-R-Us? I certainly don't. But these people could remember Pegasus Books. I think that's incredible, and really a beautiful thing.

Very few places can change and impact people that positively. Our homes, a playground from our childhood, possibly a church or a school.

And, even though there are far fewer children that come into the store now, it's still happening. Sure, we get the "Wow, I remember so-and-so" from all sorts of older people, but I can honestly say that most of the time a kid comes in for the first time, we usually get a good old fashioned jaw-drop. They're astounded and mesmerized. The store really is unlike anything else. It feeds their imaginations like little else can.

It got me thinking about the other ways a store can be successful, aside from financially. A store is always out to make money, and it's impressive enough to make it work in that way. But it takes a special type of place to have a truly positive and lasting effect on the people that come in. It may not have a direct benefit to anyone working there, or to the amount of money made, but in a completely non-quantitative way, it's a huge success.

I know for me personally, I would not be the same person without this store. I can remember buying a Yanma Pokemon card for $3 out of the glass case when I was in either 4th or 5th grade. A few years later, I can distinctly remember looking down at the bottom shelf of the comic racks a year or two later, and picking up my first two comics: Avengers #499 and Iron Man #89. I remember about a year after that, creating my pill list with Duncan. I had Avengers, Iron Man, and House of M on there. I remember countless trips to the comic store and watching my stacks of comics grow. I remember taking a risk a couple years ago and actually trying to read DC comics with Green Lantern. Then, I remember starting reading Vertigo. Then I remember starting my first job behind that counter. Despite working at McDonald's first, this will be the one I tell people about. I would never have started writing or drawing without the inspiration that I found in the store. Heck, this blog was started on the store computer.

I know I'll never forget it.

If that's just my story, imagine the stories 30 years of kids must have? I can only imagine the stories little kids will tell Duncan in 10 more years. I hope I'm doing a good job giving them something to remember.

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