The SF Mission’s only comic book store in danger of closing

Leef Smith at his store, Mission: Comics & Art. Photo by Charlotte Silver

The Mission’s only comic book store is in danger of closing and is seeking support from the community. According to a post on the Mission: Comics & Art’s website, sales were down 17 percent in 2017, equal to $72,000.

Owner Leef Smith has invited people on Facebook to come to an emergency meeting on Sunday night “to help figure out next steps.”

Smith is hoping to engage supporters and brainstorm ways to keep the store going.

“I have some ideas and I’d like to hear from others,” he said on Friday.

One possibility, he says, is to start a membership drive using a crowdsourcing platform like Patreon.

Smith cited Wicked Grounds, the kink-friendly cafe in SoMa, which was forced to shut down earlier this month before being saved by a robust membership drive using the online platform Patreon. Within a few days, the cafe had raised the needed $15,000 a month to stay open, and now it’s netting a monthly $17,492.

Borderlands Books in the Mission also created a successful sponsorship program when it faced possible closure in 2015.

Smith does not yet have a specific benchmark he needs to meet to stay open, but he says the solution will need to be sustainable.

“If I knew [sales] would get better, it would be a different situation,” he said. “But I don’t have the confidence, unfortunately.”

Signs of trouble began right before the 2016 election, Smith says, when ordinarily sales would start to pick up during the holiday season. But they didn’t.

“People just weren’t buying,” he says.

In a post on his website, Smith breaks down the decline in sales by publication. The declines were across the board for trade publications, but Marvel and Image comics showed the steepest decline, at $10,000 for the year.

To put Mission’s struggles in perspective, comic sales across the country slumped 10 percent last year, ending an almost 15-year growth spurt in the industry.

Smith says that he has talked to other comic book stores in San Francisco, and they too are experiencing the dip. Comix Experience, another store on Divisadero, reports sales are down by 8.5 percent.

“I’m talking about it because I think there is a community here that wants to keep the store open,” Smith says.

Mission Local spoke to Smith on New Year’s Day. He told us that 2017 had been a bad year.

He attributed part of the decline in sales to the 2016 presidential election. “My perspective is that people are nervous and anxious and don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s the scarcity thinking: I need to hold on to what I have. People are reading less and on the Internet more.”

But he also thinks the city’s changing demographics and a more transient population plays a role.

“A lot of my older customers have been forced out,” he said.

Mission: Comics & Art will be holding its meeting Sunday at 6 p.m. at 2250 Mission St.

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3 Comments

  1. thefriendlyrobot

    Borderlands Books in the Mission threatened to close because minimum wage was going to go up. Then a bunch of people gave them money. Now they are buying up more real estate.

  2. Kyle

    SJWMarvel and now D.C. Going down the toilet…. so will your store. A business that depends on donations ( patron) to stay open is not a business at all.

  3. Chris Sro

    If you wish to improve your sales I suggest not alienating and insulting potential new clients, even if they are “transients” (please do let us know what the acceptable age or SF tenure is for your customers). I always enjoyed window shopping this store but suddenly I’ve developed a sour taste.

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