By Christine Graf
After working in information technology for 23 years, Mike Miller was laid off from a local tech company during the pandemic.
His unexpected layoff prompted him to pursue his dream of opening a comic book store. In September, he opened Cosmic Cape Comics at 9 Hampstead Place in Saratoga Springs. The store is located in The Springs, a luxury apartment and commercial complex located off of Weibel Avenue.
Cosmic Cape Comics carries a large variety of comic books, role playing and board games, trading card games, and collectibles.
“COVID gave me the opportunity to explore a new career,” he said. “I’ve been passionate about comic books for a quite a long time. In the basement of our house in Wilton, I had probably 60,000 comic books.”
Miller’s interest in comic books began when he was living and working in Chicago, a city with many comic books stores. He started reading mainstream comic books and attending comic book conventions.
“I started meeting a lot of comic book artists and writers, especially the independent guys trying to break into the industry and publish their own comic books,” he said. “I started realizing how much more there was out there beyond the mainstream comic books. That’s when I started getting into independent comic books. It broadened my horizons in the comic book field.”
He began collecting comic books and purchased back issues featuring his favorite writers and artists. As his collection grew, he decided to start an online business while still working full time. He increased his inventory by purchasing several large collections from other collectors.
“I went from 2,000 or 3,000 comic books to 60,000,” he said.
He created an LLC and spent evenings sorting comic books. Because he was working full time, organizing and inventorying such a large collection turned out to be very time consuming.
“I bought too many too fast and it was just too overwhelming,” he said. “I had all of the best intentions, but it just became too much.”
Five years later, after being laid off, he found himself at a crossroads. At age 53, he questioned whether he wanted to get another job in information technology.
“I was getting burned out from working in IT,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘Do I really want to do this anymore?’”
That’s when his wife, Nanette, and stepson, Bob, convinced him that the time was right for him to open his own store.
While preparing his business plan, Miller drew on the skills he learned while earning an MBA at UAlbany. He also holds a B.S. and PhD in chemical engineering.
“I knew that to be successful you have to have a diverse customer base—not just older comics but newer comics and other things like games, magic cards, RPG (role playing games), and graphic novels,” he said. “I started thinking about what sort of inventory I would need and what it would cost each month to keep going. I also started thinking about marketing and sales and all of the other aspects of the business.”
Instead of seeking a loan, Miller decided to finance the store by dipping into his savings. He had his store’s soft opening on Sept. 29 and plans to have an official grand opening around Thanksgiving.
“I started with a minimal amount of modern inventory and my giant backlog of comics. I’ve since then been ordering a lot of new comic books and assembling the broader part of the store. I also purchased a bunch of titles tailored for younger audiences, and some are for young readers. I’ve been able to build inventory to where I now have the diverse product base I was going for from the very beginning.”
Miller has relied on word of mouth and extensive use of social media to attract customers. He is hopeful his store will fill the void that was left when Comic Depot, Saratoga’s only comic book store, closed two years ago.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who used to go to the Comic Depot, and they went to the Internet when the store closed,” he said. “What I’m looking to do is to lure those customers back from Amazon and the others online. Because this is a place where you can feel that comic book. You can talk to me or other customers and ask, ‘Have you read this? Do you have any recommendations?’”
Miller especially enjoys giving recommendations to parents who enjoyed reading comic books when they were young and are now interested in introducing the genre to their own children. He believes comic books are an excellent way to encourage kids of all ages to engage their imagination and the creative side of their brains. Miller also wants girls to know that today’s comic books feature an impressive number of female heroes.
When it comes to his own personal comic book favorites, Miller said he has always been drawn to archers including the Green Arrow. His favorite series, Robyn Hood, is published by independent publisher Zenescope and features a female main character.
Cosmic Cape Comics is open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. They are closed on Monday and Tuesday. For more information, visit cosmiccapescomics.myshopify.com.