Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It Was 18 Years Ago Today...

October 3 is the 18th Anniversary of the opening of FLYING COLORS COMICS & Other Cool Stuff, so it's time for some thankful reflection and a look back at the early days here.
Some of you may look at this shot and think "That guy's been running Flying Colors so long he was around before there was color film!" Almost, but not quite.

This photo was taken on October 3 1988, when my hair was long and still brown, back issues filled just about every wall space in the store, except for those taken by sportscards, posters and t-shirts. If any of you have considered going into retail business for yourself, let me tell you, it's not easy being your own boss, but it's a lot better than having someone else cracking the whip on you.

That first day, I had no idea what to expect. Our very first customer, a fellow named Milton, bought a Topps baseball "rack-pack" and we were off and running. Ha! We did all of $63 on our first day.

Here's a shot of my first FLYING COLORS' staff. That's Anne on the left and Mark on the right. I couldn't have asked for two better people to help me in those early days. After a couple of months they were joined by Teri, Scott, Sam and a great parade of other FlyCo staffers that, in total over these 18 years, is just over 50 really good people (surprisingly low turn-over for a retail business!). I've seen Anne a number of times over the years around town and Mark surprised me earlier this year by coming up from Hollywood (OK, it was really L.A.) for my 50th birthday party.

After being open for a few weeks, I threw a Grand opening party with a hot new young artist as my guest--- that's superstar JIM LEE in the photo here regaling the local kids with tales of drawing PUNISHER, ALPHA FLIGHT and (less likely) SAMURAI SANTA. Jim's studio was in Berkeley at the time, a year or two before he went south to open the Homage Studios, which became Wildstorm Studios sometime later. Jim has officially been our guest here for numerous signings over the years, but in those early days it wasn't unusual for him to come hang out with us and talk with other artists just breaking into the biz, like Dan Brereton, Jeff Johnson and Ken Hooper (more of my favorite guys in the biz!).

I do credit some of the success of FLYING COLORS to Jim Lee since his signings for UNCANNY X-MEN #268, PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #1, X-MEN #1, FANTASTIC FOUR:HEROES REBORN #1 and BATMAN: HUSH Vol One (and maybe another one or two I'm forgetting) really put FLYING COLORS on the map. Thanks, Jim! And we'd love to have you back soon!

One more shot here, taken on that Grand Opening day in late October '88. I just wanted to show you what some of the shop looked like in those early days. Our store name was painted across the middle of the store with the rainbow and star logos painted on the high walls on both ends of the store. In this photo, if you look near the top right hand corner, you'll see some of the animation art we used to sell here. To the right of that you can see a bit of the classic Arthur Adams' Wolverine cardboard cut-out. Everywhere else, you'll see lots of comic books! Same as it ever was...

Big thanks, heartfelt thanks go out to all of you who shop here, who allow me this opportunity to serve you and sell you the best in comics' entertainment. I do appreciate each and every person who chooses to spend their money here. I listen carefully to what you say and I hope to keep making FLYING COLORS one of your favorite entertainment outlets. This place wouldn't be here if it wasn't for your support.

So what are your earliest memories of FLYING COLORS? What could we do to make FLYING COLORS even better? Hit the comment button and let us all know, OK?

Muchas Gracias!



(These photos come from the FLYING COLORS archive scrapbooks, put together with love by Libby. If you'd like to see more of the early days of FLYING COLORS, just ask to see the scrapbooks. If you've been one of the FLYING COLORS' Faithful for years, you might even be in a photo or two.)


Jonathan Chan said...

WOW! I can't believe it's been 18 years! Happy Anniversary Flying Colors!

My first memory of Flying Colors is way back in 1991. And it's all because of Venom. Yup, you heard me, Venom. He was the big thing back in the day and being the completist that I was, I *HAD* to own every book that came out with Venom in it. The book I couldn't find was Avengers Death Trap The Vault!

I remember combing through the telephone book trying to find a comic store in the area that wouldn't be too far for my dad to drive me. At the time, my LCS was The Land of Nevawuz, but they didn't have the book. I found a listing for a shop called Flying Colors and called to find out its location.

I hunted down my dad and can remember talking to him in our driveway asking if we could go. He said it was too far, but he knew I really wanted the book. So the deal was, if I could get all my chores done in time, he'd take me before dinner. With my motivation driving me, I was able to get everything done in time and my dad took me to my inaugural trip to Flying Colors!

I was amazed when I got there! I can still remember that it was before the expansion into the Liquor Store area. The large book shelves that hold all the new releases weren't there yet. There were individual columns with shelves for books. I found the Avengers book I was so determined to get! I still have it to this day (and am fondly looking at it right now as I type this).

But what was even COOLER was my second trip to Flying Colors! This was probably somewhere around a year later. I was on a huge bike riding kick and I remember riding the Canal trail one day with one of my best friends at the time. Before I knew it, I found myself a few blocks away from the store! I remembered the area and talked my friend into taking a detour to go to the store with me. It'd been so long since I'd been there, I was guessing the direction. On that day, I made one of the best purchases ever - all four books of the Dark Knight Returns (heavily used) for $2.50!

I remember having read somewhere that it was a really good series and here were all of them for an awesome price. I figured "what the heck" (I never bought anything out of mint condition). To this day I hold that as one of my best comic purchases ever! I still have them all kept in the plastic bag they were bundled in with the $2.50 neon yellow sticker on the front. :-) That purchase made a HUGE impression on how cool the store was! After that, I was hooked on Flying Colors!

Don't even get me started on how much I missed the store during my college years... :-)

Jonathan Chan

SpookieG said...

i have the same hair syle from 18 years ago. Since 8 years ago, i've been coming to th GREAT flying colors since i move from the Los Angeles basin :) (BTW GO DODGERS!!!) You should try again with the long hair, let history repeat itself!!!!!! peace and everyone have fun!!!!!! :)

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that you're still around. It also amazes me that there's someone else out there who remembers "Land of Nevawuz". ;) Congrats on making it through some hellish times. I fondly remember the day in 1991 when I purchase a NM X-Men #137 for $8.50 from you (close to Guide at the time) and got home and found Claremont, Byrne, AND Austin's sigs on the splash page. ;) Excellent.

Congrats on your success....you certainly outplayed, outlasted, and outlived everyone else.

Fry said...

Speaking of the Land of Nevawuz (which as I recall was in Pleasant Hill) does anyone remember the small shop on North Main in Walnut Creek? Just down the road from where the Subaru dealership is now. We're talking early-mid 80s. What was that place called?

Anyway - congrats Flying Colors! Many happy returns.

Joe "FlyCoJoe" Field said...

That store on North Main Street in Walnut Creek started out as Shazam! in 1973, then became Don's Swap Shop when Dominic DeFalco took it over in '75 (if memory serves). A while later, the name changed to California Comic Book Company, still owned by Mr. DeFalco. it was the first "CCBC" store in a chain that would extend to Dublin, Antioch, Danville, San Francisco, Concord and San Jose.

Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff, meanwhile, is coming up on its 24th anniversary, so it may be time to link back to this blog post and add some more old photos.

What do you think?