Friday, November 25, 2005

Week Two...

Well, here we are. The initial rush of the first week of operation has passed, and we are SLOWLY beginning to settle into a routine. I don't think a routine will really be in place for some time, since each day I am thinking of new things that can be done, but the place is starting to feel more like home.

Had a solid Wednesday. Saw a few new faces and several return customers. That feels good -- repeat customers is the lifeblood of a store like this.

We are also beginning to see SOME impact of the advertising we are doing (currently just in the newspaper, but to expand soon). I don't think any of the folks who came by were there as a result of the advertising, but we did get a lot of phone calls asking about the hours, etc. The ads should be running 2-3 times a week until the end of the year and then we'll decide about whether or not to keep them going. I'm 99% sure we will keep them going in some fashion since we HAVE to advertise to get anyone in the door. The shopping center is not on the main drag, so very few people are going to see the store if they don't already know to look for it.

Had an interesting visitor today. I could tell from the minute he entered the store that he was unlikely to buy anything since he didn't make eye contact and was EXTREMELY reluctant to make conversation. He walked around the store for a few minutes and then slipped out the front, hopped in his car, and left. My guess? He is probably a regular at the other store in the area and he was dispatched by the store (or just curious) to check us out. Could be wrong, but I doubt highly he will be back.

Placed some orders today for some Star Wars-related stuff. Specifically, I decided to take some of our eBay earning and reinvest them in Star Wars Miniatures gaming supplies. I've had a couple people ask about it and other related Star Wars stuff, so I figured I'd put that on the walls and see how it sells. Need to find the right mix of toys and comics to get all of the different types of customers in the door, so I'm chocking this expenditure up as a necessary experimentation.

That's it for today. If you have any questions, let me know!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Quiet Day, But a Busy Week...

Well, we have officially had no customers today. My first shutout since we opened. I'm not too dispirited by that, though, since we have actually been busier over the previous few days than I would have thought. We have a couple of subscribers, and the store has been making money.

Most gratifying was when I turned a gentleman on the the first Y: The Last Man trade, which he bought. He came back the next day so enthusiastic about it that he bought the next four trades so he could catch up with the story. I actually think he may begin buying the book monthly. That was pretty cool.

Also sold some comics and some game paraphenalia to a few kids that stopped by. Overall, I feel really good about the first week. Especially since our advertising hasn't yet begun, and most of our traffic was from people who were in the strip mall for another reason and decided to stop by. Thought I would like to give a shout out to those of you who stopped by based upon this blog. Your patronage is MUCH appreciated.

Well, since today was so slow (read: no customers) I spent the time actually continuing to upload books on to our online store (the link for which is located on the upper right corner of this page). Back up over the 4,500 book mark. I should be able to hit 5,000 again by the end of next week...unless we get really busy in the store. This would be, as my partner Scip says, a High Quality Problem.

I also went through and did my preliminary Previews order for the month. Ended up ordering a lot more this time than I did the previous month under the assumption that by the time these books arive in January our clientelle will have begun to expand. Here's hoping!

Next week I'm going to upload a few pictures of the store so you can see how the place looks. I'm actually pretty happy with it. I have a big room in the back that needs some more stuff in it, but otherwise, it is coming together nicely.

Okay folks, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fredericksburg Big Monkey Is Now Open!!

Yes ladies and gentlemen, after lo these many months...the Fredericksburg Big Monkey is now open for business! This rocks! This is totally cool! It is just REALLY darn neat! Wow!

And you know what...? I have actually made sales today! Yes, thus far (by 4:00pm) I have made about 1/50th of what our G'town store should make today (it is Wednesday, after all), but the simple fact that ANYONE has come in the door is great. Heck, I've even gotten my first subscriber. And even more than that, he is an indy afficionado, thus giving me reason to expand the types of books the store carries (and thus expose others to them). As you can imagine, I was hesitant to carry any indy books this early because I had no idea if anyone shopping at a suburban store would want to buy them. Now, I know that there is at least some market for them. Which is darn cool.

Oh, and guess what? My third sale of the day was the one that finally netted me my first actual dollar (as opposed to credit card receipt). That bad boy will be framed and on the wall by tomorrow.

So what have I done today?

Well, the first thing I did was go to the bank to get cash register...well, actually to get MORE cash for the register. Yesterday I specifically went to the bank to get money for the cash drawer, and guess what I forgot to get? $1 bills. Just the most important of the bills in the old cash drawer, that's all. *sigh* Yes, I am a professional.

So anyway, I resolved that issue by going to the bank again today and then set out to logging in the week's shipments (they came in late yesterday, so I didn't get to it last night). I now have a wide, if shallow, selection of collectible games to go along with the comics in the store. Magic, Pokemon, Yu Gi Oh, Heroclix, VS, are all represented on the walls now, thus filling out the place even more.

Then a few customers came in and out, each actually BUYING something, so God bless 'em!

Oh well, I guess I'm off to attack the online store. I've got several orders to process and I want to get the inventory back up again.

So if you are in the area of Fredericksburg, VA, and want to see the place, please feel free to swing by and say, "Hi!" You can find us at 10667 Spotsylvania Avenue.

Did I mention that I am in a pretty great state of mind right now? Well I am. It's a good day to be me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tick Tock Tick Tock....

Just a few more days until the grand opening! November 16, here I come!

Well, maybe that is a bit of a stretch. You see due to governmental consideration, we aren't doing a "GRAND OPENING" for about another 5 or 6 business days after the 16th. The 16th will be more of a "soft opening" of sorts. While we won't be trumpeting the arrival of the store, the door will quietly be unlocked and if someone wants to come in and give me their money, who and I to stop them?

By the end of the month, though, all of the external considerations should be taken care of and we will proudly begin unveiling our advertising in the local paper, the Free-Lance Star. We'll have about two ads a week (sometimes 3) until the end of the year. I got a good deal with the paper for the ads, but in order to get it, they all had to run by December 31. Before we hit our delay, I had the ads running about once a week, but WITH the delay, things got a bit more compressed. Oh well, it is the holiday shopping season, so it can't hurt to start off with a bang, I guess.

Looking around, the place does look a little bare. There is certainly product to sell, make no mistake, but it certainly doesn't have the "every inch of space is filled with cool stuff" vibe that our DC store has. It will come with time, I know, but for now I am trying to make do with posters and the like. Luckily, comic books and related products actually are pretty darn appealing on their own, so the place is quite colorful.

I've also made contact with a gentleman over at Dime Store Productions. They are an indy label who contacted me about potentially carrying their products. Seem like nice folks. I also told them that I like to have artists draw pictures of "superhero monkeys" that I can frame and hang in the store (with proper credit given to the artist). It is kind of neat to tell an artist "draw me a monkey superhero" and see where their mind and artistic skills go. At this point, we don't have many of these pictures up on the walls yet, but I am hoping to get tons of them over the years to come. Anyway, the kind folks over at Dime Store Productions (www.dimestoreproductions) said they would see what they could do to help me out. Once I get something, I will definitely post a scan of it here on the blog.

Speaking of blogs...and by extraction the Internet...and by further extraction website is just about ready. I have seen the early drafts of this thing and it is going to be absolutely amazing. If you swing by right now, you will see our teaser site, but bookmark the spot and visit often. We will have reviews, blogs, polls, industry news, the whole deal. A lot of time and effort has gone in to making this thing great, and it really shows.

Okay, that's it for now. I'll have another post after the weekend, but before the doors open on Wednesday. Thanks for sticking around!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Time to Start Again...

Okay, a few people I know have told me that I really either need to post again on this blog or delete it. So, since deleting it seems a LITTLE sad, I have divided to post some things to get myself back into the habit. After all, a LOT has happened, and there is a LOT to tell.

I. Big Monkey is up and running

As of October 1, I and my other two investors officially purchased Beyond Comics 2 in Georgetown (Washington, DC) and renamed it Big Monkey Comics. In addition, our second store, Big Monkey Fredericksburg (VA) will be opening a week from Wednesday. Finally, the Big Monkey eBay store is chugging along. At one point we had over 5,000 books for sale, but now we are hovering around the 4,400 mark due to the fact that we have actually been selling things at a startlingly brisk clip.

II. Wow, that first paragraph encompasses a lot, huh?

Tell me about it.

The past 8 weeks have been a whirlwind. First we had all of the financial issues to deal with to put together the money we needed to actually buy the Georgetown store. We got that done, but there were certainly some tense spots during that portion of things. In the end, it should be noted that the money part actually worked out pretty easily. We had to change the specific nature of HOW we got the money, but we never had any doubt as to the fact that we would get the money.

During that time, I was creating our online store. And creating our online store. And creating our online store. Creating an eBay store (especially if you want it to be a big one) takes a LOT of time. In the end, though, this was a good investment of time because the sales have been quite healthy for not actually advertising the store's existence. In fact, the revenues generated by the eBay store got the ball rolling on our website as well as paid a lot of the startup costs associated with the Fredericksburg, VA store.

Which brings us to the Fredericksburg store. My store. The store that I will be working in 4 days a week to start. The store that is an hour drive from my house (ugh). If you have read any of the early blog entries, the goal here was to create a store in Richmond, VA -- heck, the address for this blog is -- but Richmond has more than enough stores. We may open one in Richmond down the road, but we would be buying an existing store, not trying to carve out market share on our own.

Anyway, back to Fredericksburg. I've spent most of my waking hours over the past month plus trying to get this store ready. And we are just about there. Where once there was an empty shell in a strip mall, now there is a yellow and black store with slatwall around the walls, product on the shelves, and a computer/POS system (just about) ready to go. I have to admit that it is pretty exhilarating.

There is much more to say, but I will have to say it later…and I will. Now that the uncertainty of “Will it happen” has been replaced by the certainty of “It IS happening” I have all of the motivation I need to keep telling my three readers all about what is going on.