OPINION: Value Your Community Posted July 19, 2012 by Kevin Knodell

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By Kevin Knodell, Community Manager

I’m going to make a posting that’s a little bit different than normal. First of all, I’m speaking in the first person. I’m writing this not as a journalist, but as a community member. Second, I’m going to be talking quite a bit about things outside of the Parkland-Spanaway Area.

The South Sound recently suffered some huge losses. We saw three fine businesses close their doors: Hell’s Kitchen, The Mandolin, and Comic Book Ink.

Each was a beloved venue, and their departure is a sad loss for area musicians and artists. However, for me, Comic Book Ink was the hardest loss.

A lot of people didn’t get why I cared so much about the place. To a lot of folks looking in, it’s just a comic shop. Just a place where I go to get comics once a week. That’s why I want to tell you a little bit about it.

Comic Book Ink has called the south sound home for 10 years, and was started by John Munn. I first met John in the fall while working on a story on Comic Book Ink for PLU’s The Mooring Mast (though I’d been a customer for some time before). John is a man of irrepressible spirit. His passion for the arts and storytelling, and the size of his heart, are evident to anyone who’s ever talked to him. My friend Paul, aspiring screenwriter and barista extraordinaire says of John “he just loves people.” I was not surprised when he was named Artistic Director at the Lakewood Playhouse.

John Munn at Comic Book Ink. Photo by Kevin Knodell, while with The Mooring Mast

Comic Book Ink was not just any old comic shop. It was an Eisner nominated store, and a gathering place for artists, writers, actors, and creators. Comic Book Ink made a point of not just selling DC and Marvel comics, they made sure they carried independent titles. They carried super indy material, like artbooks featuring the work of local artists like RR Anderson and Mark Monlux, members of the Cartooninsts League of Absurdist Washingtonians (CLAW). They were the venue of choice CLAW’s not so secret monthly meetings. They carried films and roleplaying games developed by Dead Gentlemen Productions, PLU alums and indy legends who’ve continued to make the Northwest proud as they go into the second season of their hit webseries JourneyQuest (Which you should totally watch. Now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait)

Promotional materials for the Dead Gentlemen and for the Lakewood Playhouse, showcasing Comic Book Ink’s commitment and love for local artists. Photo by Kevin Knodell

Signature and sketch by Robert Kirkman, writer of The Walking Dead, on a table at Comic Book Ink. Photo by Kevin Knodell

I also came to love the staff, particularly Alex Henshaw and Carmen Melendez, who were always there to greet me on new comic book day (every Wednesday, for those of you not in the know). Heading in there and bantering with them was one of the brightest spots of my week. I also enjoyed spending my evening talking about Comics with my Shop Talk bros Travis and Ray, who I immensely enjoyed arguing with about comics and talking about the stories we love.

Carmen Melendez looking fantastic as Silk Spectre and Kevin Knodell looking like a dork on Free Comic Day 2012 at Comic Book Ink

I stuck it out with them up until the end. Watching the shop close was bittersweet. The community came out to support John on his last day and held a mini potluck. Local figures like The Sonics Guy, CLAW, and Matt Vancil of the Dead Gentlemen all made appearances. Many hugs were given, and several tears were shed.

As I stood in line to make the last purchase I would ever make at this store, I wore my Comic Book Ink cap to show solidarity. John immediately noticed the cap, and thanked me for “wearing it with pride.” He shook my hand and thanked me for my patronage. I wanted to say something profound and meaningful, something that sum up how I felt about what this place meant to me. The best I could do was clasp his hand and respond with “thank you.”

John did an emotional farewell video expressing his thanks for all the support the store got. I think it’s shame they never got that Eisner award. In my heart I know they deserved it. I don’t regret a single moment or dollar I spent there. The shop was loved by customers, writers, artists, and creators. That love, to me at least, matters more than the love of an award committee.

So you maybe asking, why is this here, on Discover Parkland? It’s because I want to use this as a rally call to all of us to support our local businesses, and the people who run them. John apologized for not being able to stay open, but he has nothing to apologize for. The loss of CBI, The Mandolin, and Hell’s Kitchen were not the result of a lack of effort, passion, or love. Some things we can’t control.

We as a community however, can decide what businesses and merchants we want to support. We have some great small businesses in Tacoma, and some absolutely great spots in our corner of Tacoma here in Parkland. We have awesome musicians, coffee, and beer at NPCC. We have excellent Cupcakes at Yummers. Felix at Reyna’s makes the best Mexican food I’ve ever had outside of Mexico. There’s awesome Donuts at Kolby’s donut house. You can buy a battle axe from a man named Thor at Longship Trade Goods Too. This place is awesome.

Also, to bring this full circle, a lot of Comic Book Ink’s staff will be moving to Nerdy Stuffs, a new store that has joined us here in the Parkland-Spanaway area, which readers of the site will learn more about soon. I’m exceptionally happy to have them joining this community, and I hope they’ll be welcomed with open arms. Shop Talk will be moving there after their August 1st grand opening.

Friends from PLU have asked me why I don’t go back to Portland, my hometown, now that I have my degree. The answer is because I like it here. I’m a Parklander and a Tacoman, and will be for some time to come if I have anything to say about it. I want to see this community thrive, and I want to see the people and the businesses that make it what it is continue to succeed, for Tacoma to live up to its title: The City of Destiny.

4 Comments

  • avatar
    Derek Hiebert July 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Good words, Kevin. I’m saddened to hear of the recent closing of those businesess, but your rally cry to support local business, especially in Parkland, stokes me as a fellow Parklandler. I’m humbled that you would choose Parkland over Portland. Not too many people would do that. Glad to have you and other locals in the community.

    Reply

  • avatar
    Jeff July 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    You might have inspired me to write out my own local business piece on my own blog.

    Reply

  • avatar
    Hate local business? Buy everything from Amazon. « The Daily Halibut July 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    […] friend and associate Kevin Knodell just published a piece on the closure of Comic Book Inc. in Tacoma. I will confess to never having gone to the shop in question, mostly from my lack of interest in […]

    Reply

  • avatar
    Warren K. July 22, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Mr. Knodell, you sir, hit it square on the head. I was privileged enough to be a customer of CBI for, in my opinion, too short of a time. I too feel the same about Tacoma, I may no longer live there. I will always look for a time to go back “Home”, though without CBI it just won’t feel the same.

    Reply

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