A while back I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the owners of Royal Collectables. For those not familiar (or those from out of the area) Royal is a comic book/collectable/sport card emporium nestled in the heart of Forest Hills, NY. It's situated about twenty minutes outside of the city and really is a terrific place to shop for loads of different hobbies.
Anyway- the piece was scheduled to appear in the December issue of Celebrity & Entertainment Magazine, but was cut due to space constraints. It may still show up somewhere down the line, but I really wanted to post this up for anyone who's interested.
Click on through for a look at a comic book shop that isn't just surviving - but thriving.
Nestled right in the heart of Forest Hills is one of the best collectable shops you're likely to find in any neighborhood. Royal Collectables has sports cards and memorabilia, comic books, and generally more pop culture merchandise than you can shake a stick at. A while back, I sat down with Chuck (one of the two owners) to talk about the store's 20 year long history and continued success.
The business has lived through both industry boom and bust in the past two decades and now, in the midst of economic turmoil and looming recession, still packs in customers and fans on a daily basis. A big part of that, according to Chuck, is their ability to shift their focus with the changing times. Royal carries a lot of different things and there really is pretty much something for everyone. That allows them to stay one step ahead of the trends and keep an audience no matter what the outside world looks like.
Even now, the store is in the middle of a major reorganization. That's something that they try to keep up as well says Chuck. Consistently changing the look of the store keeps things fresh and also clears new space for arriving merchandise, but this latest shake-up has a two part goal. The first is to make the shopping experience easier for the consumer as the Holidays roll in. Departments like comics, sports, and even Elvis memorabilia will all have their own homes in the store.
Part two? Make the place more 'velvet rope' friendly. It might surprise those who don't visit Royal often to learn that the shop has some of the most successful autograph signings in the metro area. Their steady stream of wrestlers draws huge lines that often stretch right out the front door. In fact, a recent event that saw the legendary Brett Hart appear at the store, had the WWE great commenting that it was the best signing that he'd been to and that both the turnout and the fans were fantastic. Chuck teased at some big time talent that might be appearing at Royal in the near future too and they are massive. Without saying too much, a certain 'Punk' and the man with that classic 'Flair' might be guests sometime in the new year.
But before we get to 2012, there's that pesky Holiday season to buy our way through. Odds are that you've got someone on your list that would find a gift from Royal to be just the right fit. If you're looking for that big item though, you might be out of luck because according to Chuck there is no big 'get' for Christmas 2011- and there actually hasn't been one for a few years now. But have no fear because if you do need a suggestion, then he does have one for you- Graphic Novels. Chuck says that comic books in general are doing well, and even though the market did see a boost from events like DC's New 52 relaunch, it has generally been rolling along quite nicely for some time now.
But what if you don't see anything in store? Well that's alright too because nearly anything you might want to pick up can be ordered for you. Whether you're talking graphic novels, toys, or even sports jerseys- “if we don't have it, we'll try and get it for you” said Chuck. All that's required is a two week order window and the crew can set you up with what you're looking for. That's not to say that the store won't be packed for the Holiday season though, because it most certainly will. With the re-org wrapping up by the time you read these words, all new stock as well as classic items brought in from private sellers will be loaded into the store. Royal is even getting into games and consoles from year's gone by as they now purchase lots from would-be sellers and currently are working to expand their stock of games for the Dreamcast, Super Nintendo, Genesis and more.
Actually, buying and trading with fans who are looking to part from their collections is something that the pair do quite often. On Tuesdays and Fridays (from 1pm-5pm you don't need a specific appointment) Chuck or Mike will gladly meet anyone who's selling collectable items and take a look at their offerings. And any collection will be entertained- even if it has nothing to do with comic books or sports -the pair will take a look and either research your items, or make you an offer right there on the spot. It's a terrific way to sell off unwanted items and saves you all the trouble that eBay can be, not to mention the fact that it's instant gratification. And hey, you might see something else in the the store to take home with you, so there's that too.
Royal also offers a 'Comic Club' that shoppers more than likely will want to take advantage of. This membership is totally free and nabs you 10% off of all new comics as well as a whopping 20% off of graphic novels. That's more than you'd likely be able to save at any Barnes and Noble or even Amazon- which is not to mention the fact that digital comic buyers get nothing off of their new purchases. So, joining the club and buying at a shop like Royal Collectables gets you a meaty discount on brand new merchandise and a physical copy of your chosen book? Yup. Two things that you'll never get buying from publishers digital storefronts- so make sure you sign up the next time you stop in.
I honestly could go on for a few pages here talking up all the awesome stuff that Royal carries, but the bottom line is that it's a great store that in many ways is still a hidden gem in the Forest Hills neighborhood. They've been around for a long time but still, new customers are constantly finding them. Their booth at this past New York Comic Con alone garnered loads of folks from Manhattan and the surrounding areas who were introduced to this great resource for all things cool. If you're like them and you've yet to head on in to Royal, do yourself a favor and go. The store is one of my very favorite places to visit and if you're a fan of pretty much anything, it'll be one of yours too.
96-01 Metropolitan Ave
Forest Hills, NY