Thursday, March 11, 2010

Comic Shop Review: Docking Bay 94

I had the pleasure of living in a great town for comics shops, Orlando, Florida. Because I've always wanted to review comic shops, I'm starting as I prepare to leave town by starting with the one that's been so kind as to carry my comics.

Docking Bay 94 is run by Rich who genuinely has a love for comics and animation. He'll talk to you for an hour if you let him. His stock is predominately back issues that are priced very affordable, especially given the prices some of the other shops in town charge for back issues. He has some toys, too, but the shop doesn't have the space. The biggest drawback for the shop is its size, and the level of competition in the area for different facets of the market. For toys, there's a shop a short drive away in Lakewood, for new comics and collectibles, the leader is a shop with several stores spaced to maximize the customer base. Back issues are the one area where Docking Bay 94 really competes as the only serious competition is a shop that lost it's Diamond account, and now apparently subsists on eBay sales. Rich is really trying hard to compete here. The back issue selection is vast and consists primarily of 1980s and 1990s comics, which is an improvement over most shops whose back issue selection consist primarily of the age of the glut when the average print run was over 100,000 copies, which means that there's a lot left over. The 1980s has a lot of good comics in its history, but I could be biased there. Nevertheless, Rich prices his back issues to be very affordable, even to the point of having a small box near the register of comics in such bad condition that they can only be termed "reading copies" as "free comics."

Recently, Rich entered into a business relationship with A Comic Shop to carry new comics and trades, and to hear Rich talk, it's been a good arrangement. It gives Rich's customers a reason to visit week after week. Rich also has started carrying comics self-published by local cartoonists, which is something no other shop in Orlando does. Some will make note of comics from major publishers that have creators local to Central Florida, but they do so for comics that they get through Diamond. Rich gets his directly from the creators. The deal with A Comics Shop has also expanded his selection of trade paperbacks and looking at the wall and talking to Rich, he can tell you about each one, and why you should buy it. He's recommended books for customers based on what else they're buying.

Rich also carries some toys, and the last time I was there, he'd purchased a huge selection of loose DC Direct figures and his central display cases were full. His toy wall is a little limited by the size of his shop. Rich loves toys and if he had a larger shop, he'd definitely would sell more, but his ability is limited by the size of the shop. Chances are you will find something that you'll want, but if you're toy shopping is very specific, you may not find what you're looking for.

Overall, this a great shop. Rich loves comics, will talk at length with you about them, and most importantly, likes his regular customers. His resources are so much better than you'd expect, and if you're out for something specific, he  will do his best to help you. If you're in Central Florida, make this store one of your stops.

Directions: From I-4, take exit 85 then head east on Princeton Ave. Turn right onto Orange and then look for Docking Bay 94 on your left in less than a quarter of a mile. Parking is available on the street and there are a couple of small parking lots nearby.

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