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Santa Rosa comic store expands as games demand grows

Popularity of superheroes and role-playing games on the big and small screen in recent years has transformed comics and gaming from a niche business with a loyal following into more of a mainstream retail venture.

And that’s helping to propel a Santa Rosa store into its third expansion in its 17-year history.

As of July 1, Outer Planes Comics and Games is operating at a new, larger address after relocating from downtown to just three blocks south of Coddingtown Mall on the north end of the city. Co-owner Dan Radovic said the new location will help the store do more of what has helped it grow and survive the pandemic shutdowns.

The 1901 Cleveland Ave. site has nearly 9,000 square feet, compared with about 5,000 square feet at the Mendocino Avenue and Seventh Street location where the store had been for 11 years. A weekend of events are planned at the new location.

That bigger space has a game room twice the size, its own secured warehouse, rooms upstairs for private events and livestreamed auctions, and its own parking lot for hosting food trucks at events.

“It makes it more of a destination,” Radovic said. “Since the pandemic pseudo-ended, a lot of people are looking for a place to go.”

At the previous location, events such as role-playing game competitions were capped at 80 attendees, but now the store can have 160. Such events are a bigger part of the business now, Radovic said.

While the frequent store visitors will see a showroom is about the same size as the previous one, the new storage space will allow deeper inventory of popular items. That will come in handy with plans to expand the line of plush toys based on such as the long-running Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game and the Pokemon line of electronic and card games.

“We have to order 30 to 40 of the same item from some distributors, and we can’t put them all out on the (sales) floor,” Radovic said.

Another big addition to the product lineup during the pandemic, he said, has been MTG Lifestyle, which specializes in sales of singles for the trading-card game Magic: The Gathering, started in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast, now a division of toy and games giant Hasbro. Over 20 billion of those cards have been made, according to the producer.

Outer Planes had hosted MTG Lifestyle to operate inside the store since 2020 to see how it would work out, and as of the beginning of this year, the two ventures merged to form OP Comics & Games LLC, with co-owners now Radovic, James Palmer and Sean Quattrin.

Cards for Magic as well as Pokeman and Yu-Gi-Oh (“King of Games”), also based on a Japanese manga, are popular sellers on the store’s online auctions on platforms such as TCG Player and livestreamed events on sites like Whatnot. The store has just started selling comics online — available for pickup — and plans to eventually add miniature figures commonly used with role-playing games.

“We’re probably going to hit the recession soon, and we want to be able to spread out with online streaming to be more recession-proof,” Radovic said. “If we are shut down again with the pandemic, we can still do online sales.”

Annette Cooper of Keegan & Coppin Co. Inc. represented OP Comics & Games and 1901 Cleveland owner Fuad Dada Trust in the lease deal, signed March 10.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before coming to the Business Journal in 1999, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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