Blue Moon has comics from the 1940s to present day and strives to have a great selection of back issues from those time periods. Their kids section is growing all the time. Magic cards are also a specialty and they have thousands of singles, as well as graphic novels, t-shirts and statues.
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Patch: Where are you from and what brought you to San Rafael?
Sam Shiffler: Being the only comic shop in Marin for the last 10 years, we realized being at the far end of the county wasn’t great. Our lease was coming up and I’d wanted to move the business to San Rafael. We found this current space in August 2011, when we were here for the West End Festival. Everything fell into place last January. I’ve been in the county for 22 years.
Stephen Johnson: I was born in San Francisco and moved to Marin when I was 10.
P: What was the deciding factor to open a space in San Rafael and what were the challenges you faced?
SS: Off and on I’d been looking for a space for about eight years, but most was available was on the other end of Fourth Street. It was way too expensive and I never would have looked for a space in the West End back then. When Stephen and I came down and looked we were both like, yeah, this is getting better. The cool little businesses seem to be locating down at this end now. It’s really nice.
SJ: The neighborhood was getting nicer, the streets were looking nicer, more people were enjoying this side of town, it was turning into it’s own eclectic side of San Rafael, which was perfect for a comic book shop.
P: What did you do before opening Blue Moon Comics?
SS: I was part-owner of another shop called Ancient Dragon for four years before opening Blue Moon in 1998. I’ve been working in this business for over 20 years. I used to run record stores off and on for years.
SJ: I’ve done just about everything under the sun, but I’ve been collecting comics since I was 7 years old. I’ve known Sam since he was at Ancient Dragon and our friendship was built over all those years. It was something I wanted to do on my own. We talked about it and it was better to partner up rather than split the business.
P: What makes Blue Moon Comics unique?
SJ: I would say the customer service more than anything. Both Sam and I have a love for comics, we want other people to have that same feeling. Our saying is “There's a comic book for everyone.” We will go out of our way to spend time to find what they are looking for.
SS: That basically says it all! That’s always what I’ve been about. That’s what sets a small business apart: how you deal with people coming in off the streets, not only the first time but continued customer service. It’s not just “Hey, here’s something for you,” and ignore them. You want to find out more about the patrons and what they like.
SJ: We have a pull service too, like a subscription service.
SS: Our regular customers will give us a list of what they are going to buy every month and we pull those each week when they come out. There’s a certain minimum, of course, like most comic shops. This is really the bread and butter of the business. These are the tried and true fans.
P: What’s the best part about being a business owner in San Rafael?
SS: We don’t know quite yet but for us, but the location is great. We were in a strip center in Novato, definitely a destination spot. For us, we want walk-in traffic. You need it in this day and age. That’s been a big boom down here. Also, other stores similar to us, such as Diamond Sports Cards and will send customers our way with recommendations, which is nice.
SJ: One thing I’ve noticed being in the West End is the camaraderie between the shop owners. We know a lot of the owners, they’ve gone out of their way to come over and say hi. We all know what’s going on, trying to help each other out.
P: Describe a typical Blue Moon Comics customer.
SS: There really is no way to tell. We get jocks, gamers, people who work at ILM. Girls too. There’s really a misconception about women and comic books.
SJ: We also get EMTs, firemen, electricians, plumbers. It’s really across the board. Your average comic customer used to be 30 plus but one of the biggest changes in the last handful of years is that children have started to get interested in comics again. More so because a lot of the recent movie trends, with Iron Man, the Avengers, X-Men, etc.
P: What was your favorite comic as a kid? And what’s your favorite now?
SJ: For me, it was the first comic I bought at a 7-Eleven when I was 7: The Avengers. I’ve pretty much been an Avengers fan ever since.
SS: That’s a tough one, because I’ve been enjoying comics since before I could even read! I guess I would have to say the Captain Atom and a Detective comic. Batman actually came out of the Detective comics. I remember poring through that, over and over. I still have copies of both. Fantastic 4 has also been a favorite over the years.
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