Article By THOMAS CRONE | APRIL 5, 2018
Cities are fluid, unpredictable creatures and the buildings that populate them are that, as well. Though many years have passed since Whiz Bam! inhabited a modest storefront at 3206 South Grand, there’s no mistake as you walk through the front door of that address that the space now occupied by Apotheosis Comics once housed arguably the greatest video store of its generation; you can just feel it. Since then, the long, slender commercial space has been home to everything from a personal training gym to an upcycling shop, but there’s a neat sense of symmetry that runs between the video store of yore, and a comics shop about to offer its grand opening.
And there’s a thread of technology that ties them together, too. Whereas Whiz Bam! was undone by the transition from VHS tapes to DVDs (a move to be followed by mail order delivery and, then, video streaming), the three owners of Apotheosis—Brad Heap, Scott Intagliata and Martin Casas—are well aware that the products they sell are available for purchase online, which, as Casas suggests “means that our competition isn’t with other comic shops, but with the internet.”
It’s a heady challenge, but Apotheosis is attacking the obvious, digital enemy by creating a room that’s comic shop, yes, but also a bar. In fact, it’s the only such combination business in the state and one of only five in the United States. Soon, the space will offer everything in cans —from beers to, yes, wines and cocktails—though they’ll eventually add a single tap line, featuring, not surprisingly, Apotheosis from Urban Chestnut Brewing Company. Seating and tables will allow folks to spread out and read titles before buying, or a chance to draw, or a place to simply chat with like-minded folks.
“We need to build a community,” says Casas, using the word about a dozen times in a half-hour chat inside the store. “We want people to buy things, but also to have conversations. You can’t do that, unless you give a good sense that you want to offer that.”
Continuing the riff, Casas says that “it’s a direct melding of two passions of mine: comics and community service. That does sound really thick-headed, but I think it’ll be fun to see what we can do with this store. And it’s cool to be a comic book guy today. In the ’90s, it was not. At all. I was very secretive about my passion. I’d sneak away on a Wednesday and buy my comics. And then I’d hang out with my buddies and I wouldn’t talk about the comics, at all. Now, people mail me things: comics, cups, pictures. It’s a lot more freeing now, to be a comic book fan. I’m hoping to raise the next generation of nerds.”
He’ll attempt that work in a colorful space that breaks out retail sections, with areas dedicated to new releases, imported graphic novels, kids titles and locally-produced works. There’s a very small selection of toys, but those came with the business and he doesn’t anticipate that the store will stock many going forward. Instead, they’ll prefer to stock paper works, mostly, as well as a few shop-specific items, like t-shirts, prints and original artworks, which already dot the walls.
Apotheosis is making use of the new sense of space, after starting off in a 200-square-foot storefront just south of the current location. Prior to that, the business had been called A&M Trading (aka Annie Moon’s), which was housed in a storefront across Grand in Tower Grove Heights. Eventually, the owner of that business was preparing for a move out-of-state, it moved over to Grand for a short time, and Casas and his partners were quick to make a move into the field of comic book shop ownership.
Then again, in some respects it wasn’t quick, at all…