The small store on 16th Street looks like a cross between a child’s bedroom and a magic shop. Bookshelves are brimming with colorful comics and stories. Small stuffed animals are hiding in every corner. Murals and prints of female superheroes and witchy women decorate the walls. Behind the counter overflowing with stickers: a business owner who others have described as a “pastel-goth girlfriend.”
“I’m very unapologetically feminine in the design of this space,” Leah Morrett, owner of Sour Cherry Comics, said. “I joke all the time that [the stuffed animals] keep the lights on.”
Morrett opened Sour Cherry Comics this past March and has been working at her storefront at 16th and Guerrero streets every day since opening. Her uniform for the day is just as whimsical as her storefront: a black sweater with blue flames, a beanie with a raven drinking coffee, a backpack covered with colorful pins, and Benjamin, her dog and trusty sidekick.
Originally from the East Coast, Morrett moved to San Francisco for grad school to study poetry. She dropped out after one semester. “It was expensive and I didn’t see myself getting a ton out of it,” Morrett said.
But San Francisco was not something she was ready to leave behind. “I’m one of those people who came here and absolutely loved it,” she said. Morrett went on to work different jobs, most of them in retail. A couple years ago, Morrett was working just down the block, at Everlane on Valencia Street. “It’s funny, because I’m back here down the block,” she said.
The long-time comic-book lover didn’t always imagine herself opening her own comic-book store. “Before I started this business, I thought, ‘this isn’t for me.’ There’s all these numbers and organization and stuff I couldn’t conceive.”
It’s easier than expected, she found. She’s working all the time, but finds herself much less stressed as a business owner than in some of her previous jobs. Now, she encourages others who have an idea or who are sick of working for other people to start their own business.
But the charming comic bookstore serves as more than just a place to catch up on the latest Marvel or DC comics. Sour Cherry Comics doubles as a space to host writing workshops, book-signing events and, most important, a nerd space geared toward queer and femme-presenting people.
Historically, comic books have been designed for men, by men, with little female representation (let alone queer female representation). Some 63 percent of comics and graphic novels are purchased by men, while 37 percent are purchased by women, according to a panel from the 2017 New York Comic Con. A 2018 study found that 17.2 percent of all creators at DC Comics were women, while 16.3 percent of all creators at Marvel Comics were women.
“Seeing a nerd space that is made for queer women has gotten people excited,” Morett said. “Most nerd spaces are created for men, and there’s no design. There’s a lot of masculine energy and it’s very boring, in my mind. I think you can be a nerd and like superheroes but also like cute shit.”
Sour Cherry Comics is open seven days a week at 3187 16th Street. You can follow Morrett on Instagram @sourcherrycomics.