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Salt Lake City – More than 100,000 people are expected to pour into the Salt Palace for the second Salt Lake Comic Con this weekend, and pouring in with them will be their money. That can mean big things for Utah’s small business owners and artists who are selling their products at the convention. The convention, which started Thursday, comes after to immensely successful Salt Lake Comic Con events, the 2013 Comic Con and last April’s FanX.
The growth in popularity of science fiction, comic books, super heroes and fantasy in the past decade has also brought a wave of businesses dealing in all things nerdy. Comic cons can provide these businesses a chance to sell directly to fans and also introduce themselves to thousands of potential new customers.
Roger Prows, co-owner of The Nerd Store, said Salt Lake Comic Con played a central role in the launch of his business. He and his brother, the other co-founder of the business, wanted to launch “a place where all nerds could come together,” a store that sold all the things they liked, particularly comics and tabletop games. They were vendors at the first Salt Lake Comic Con in September 2013, where they made enough money at the conventions to open a storefront at the Valley Fair Mall. After exhibiting again at the FanX convention held last April the store saw an uptick in business, Prows said. He has now started another business, Rockstar Pets, which sells science fiction, fantasy and comic-themed pet products.
Jon Pust has been in the game of selling comics, figurines and other fandom items for longer than most. He opened his store, Heebeegeebeez in 1995. Nearly 20 years later, the store has locations in Draper, Layton, Ogden and Logan. Pust said exhibiting at Comic Con mainly serves as an advertising tool. His display is roughly 30 feet high, displaying the name Heebeegeebeez and the store locations. It will likely end up in hundreds or thousands of photos taken throughout the three days of the convention.
Pust said the number of stores selling comic books and similar items has exploded in recent years, to where there are now around 36 stores in a 100 mile radius. Many small businesses fail in their first few years, but that number is even higher among comic stores, he said. They’re often started by people who are passionate about the things they love, but don’t have the understanding of business it takes to make a store survive. Success requires perseverance, a tight grip on inventory control and the ability to plan ahead, he said. Even people whose comic stores survive for decades rarely strike it rich. “If you want to be monetarily successful, do anything else,” Pust said. But few people who start such businesses are in it just for the money. They want to be surrounded by the art and characters they love, selling to people they can relate to.
This year’s Salt Lake Comic Con will have double the floor space of last year. It features a roster of dozens of guest stars from the worlds of TV, movies, books, comic books and more. It will also include more than 300 hours of panel discussion events and more than 400 vendors. It continues through Saturday.