Answering my own questions since 2001

Three Comic Shops in One Block

I’ve been meaning to write a few posts about my new hometown of Victoria, but other more worldly things keep coming up. There’s a bizarre retail phenomenon in downtown Victoria that deserves mention. On Johnston Street, a busy shopping street in the centre of town, there are three comic book shops within a block of each other. In fact, two of them are next door to each other. Check it out:


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I was reminded of this unlikely confluence while in Legends Comics and Books buying the final issue of Y: The Last Man (a truly superb series). I should have asked the guy behind the counter what the deal was (maybe somebody owns more than one of the shops?). I’ll do so the next time I’m down on Johnson Street.

I know there’s some retail theory about assembling a group of similar shops, and a tide that raises all boats. But this doesn’t feel sustainable. Still, if I remember correctly, there have been three shops on Johnson for years. Weird, eh?

LoJo: Really, You’re Going With That?

Incidentally, there’s a City of Victoria-backed effort to rebrand a few blocks of Johnson Street with the heinous epithet ‘LoJo’. It feels like an awful, desperate attempt to associate that area with the SoHo’s of New York and London.

Informal neighbourhood names shouldn’t come from City Hall–they should be devised by the people in the neighbourhood. Maybe that’s what happened here, but I’d never heard the term before I saw it on a silly banner on a lamppost.

12 Responses to “Three Comic Shops in One Block”

  1. Derek

    Yeah, LoJo, that is not going to seem silly and dated at all.

  2. Richard Akerman

    I’ve been on entire streets or shopping areas in European cities that sold nothing but what would seem to be rather unsustainably obscure products, like an entire street of antique postcard shops.

  3. Tim Ayres

    Every time I hear somebody say LoJo I just think of J. Lo or some other unnecessary shortening of a name. I think I’ll start calling my part of Sooke SoSo (South Sooke).

  4. Gregg

    Grouping of shops made me think of this post on a blog I recently discovered. As the author points out, it’s great for the consumer, but the shop keepers become forced to sell at rates that make doing business almost impossible. Who will then win if the shops go out of business?

  5. darren

    Adriana: Interesting, though I think businesses foisting language on us is worse than city hall. What does that second link tell us, in particular?

  6. Cheryl

    The comic shops in question not only have slightly different focuses, but each one also has its own set of loyal customers. On the outside, it’s easy to see them as three comic stores, and most will be able to find you the same issue of the most popular recent releases. However, Yellowjacket focuses much more on the CCGs; Legends on small presses and “parental advisory” titles and zines; Curious has all the toys. It’s kind of sad that I know all of this, really.

  7. Adriana

    The second link is interesting because it gives a bit of a preview (roughly) of what is to come in the next 20 or so years in Downtown Victoria…or at least want to work towards. I think Victoria Council chose Option 3. Anyhow the documents show some examples of the different sub-areas within downtown.. Lower Johnson falls into “Old Town”.

  8. Derek K. Miller

    It makes complete sense for the stores to be close by. There’s an even larger concentration of antique shops a few blocks away in Victoria. As long as the stores don’t have identical inventory, they can all survive and even do well, as Cheryl noted.

    It’s quite common for cities to have areas with, for instance, musical instruments stores in close proximity, some dealing with rentals and new instruments, some with vintage guitars, some specifically with drums, etc. Often there might be a single “hub” outlet (a large chain, for instance), and then numerous locally-owned hangers-on that deal with more specialized stuff.

  9. Davin

    A couple of thoughts here.

    One is that yes, those Comic shops have been around for years, and they appear to have their own specialities beyond that. For example, YellowJacket has a focus on Magic: The Gathering (a TCG) as well, which takes up the other half of the store that isn’t comics. Also if you go in and buy something, turn your head to the left and you will see a framed photo of The Men’s Club. We’ve been shopping at that store for years. I suspect the other stores also have these kind of regular customers as well, ones that take pride in supporting a business that treats them well.

    The other is about the businesses and local media branding Lower Johnson as “LoJo” – trust me, that’s been in use for a long while now, and I am not surprised that City Hall has caught up to what’s happening there. If you think it’s kitchy and lame, have a look at what city you’re living in at the moment. Our town character is completely unoriginal and as far as the tourists know, our highest aspirations are to appear as British as possible. Victoria is not cosmopolitan, nor is it particularly sophisticated or unique besides its geography.

    That being said, LoJo is such a bad name that it goes clear around the spectrum of classiness and it becomes fun to say. Half the fun is getting a reaction out of other people who give the Lame Face. And tell me it isn’t entertaining to see a good ol’ Lame Face every now and then.

    I have no big issue with LoJo catching on. I know that a lot of the business owners are very supportive of eachother and it is not surprising that they’ve adopted an identity at all.

    However, and this is a big however, the biggest, shittiest campaign I have EVER seen for ANY tourism ANYWHERE in the world is here in Victoria. They are T-Shirts being sold in the Government St. tourist shops at the moment. On the shirts, in giant letters, they say:

    “CSI: Canada, Seen It”

    This shirt is the worst offender because:

    1) Is not and does not try to be original
    2) Not funny either
    3) Portrays the connection as witty (false)
    4) Will not ever be any of the three above points
    5) Suggests that Victoria represents Canada
    6) Promotes stupidity and bad humor via brand theft

    I could go on.

    In my opinion this is far worse than the LoJo campaign, or even that DOWNTOWN VICTORIA: IT’S A TRIP campaign, which exclusively shows women participating in a joint neurosis of checking out random men or each others shoes. This ad campaign was featured on bus stops, some of which were even downtown – seemed like a bit of a waste to advertise downtown when you’re already downtown. Maybe they were trying to squeeze out the tremendously unoriginal and uninspiring Tilicum Mall “Funkytown” campaign, or the very unhealthy Mayfair “Retail Therapy” campaign. Stay here, we have men and shoes.

    Alright I had better stop there for now.

  10. Davin

    BTW here is a list of sanctioned campaigns for regions of Downtown Victoria:

    http://www.downtownvictoria.ca/precinct_marketing.php

    Thought you’d get a kick out of that. Not sure what happened to Antique Row – Fort St.

    How long til Harris Green develops some character?

    Also, you might want to check out Yule Heibel’s blog for her thoughts on Downtown Victoria:

    http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/yulelog/

    Additionally, Robert Randall keeps an up to date blog on current city happenings and matters of character every now and then:

    http://robertrandall.wordpress.com/

    Cheers,
    Davin

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