By CHRISTIAN MORRISON
As you walk into A Shop Called Quest, looking about, you at once notice the great magnitude of comics present in the store, which houses many interesting stories waiting to be read. Progressing slowly through the store, there is also a great deal of T-shirts, collectible trinkets and other cool doohickies that encompass many different comic universes. From DC T-shirts to Magic: the Gathering collectible card packs, the store has a lot to offer for comic book fans. Walking in at first, one would not perceive the actual size of the store, which, though actually quite small, has expanded in recent years. This, however, never seems to be a problem, as a steady flow of customers leaves plenty of space for connoisseurs of fine comic book materials to browse at their leisure. The store gives off a comfortable vibe as it is well lit by natural light coming from the windows in the front of the store and has an aesthetically pleasing store layout that makes you feel right at home. The diversity of the products they sell and the atmosphere the store projects as a whole is really quite impressive.
After interviewing the manager Gloria Alva, the store seemed to be even more impressive in regards to its success as a small business, as well as the amount of support it gives to the comic book community present in Redlands. Though it has no unique items, it makes up for it by hosting fun community events that are designed to help fans embrace their geek culture. They host weekly Magic: the Gathering card tournaments where players play against each other for the chance to win special cards that cannot be bought in a regular manner. They also hold a couple of Zine tournaments throughout the year. Zine is a type of fan-made comic that includes original characters and stories created by dedicated comic book fans.
You may be thinking, “Well, none of those events are really my cup of tea, and if they really offer nothing special why not just shop online?” The simple answer is that this store provides an experience that you cannot get from shopping online. Nothing quite matches the sensation when you pick up a graphic novel, flip through the pages and feel the smooth paper texture as you hold it in your hands. Plus, you might stumble upon a new comic universe that you didn’t know existed, but you find to be immensely enjoyable.
“Customers often will come in looking for one thing, and find another thing that makes them say, ‘Wow, I never knew this existed!’” Alva stated. With all the things previously mentioned in mind, it is not hard to see why this business has been doing so well. There are boxes upon boxes behind the registers full of comics that customers have placed on hold. When asked about this, Alva explained that the store has a very strong, loyal consumer base in Redlands. “Those big corporations, like Amazon, really only care about the number of orders they get for their items, while we focus on our customer’s experience,” said Alva. With very personal customer service, great presentation of their wares, and a community that encourages love for graphic novels, it is not difficult at all to imagine why customers have kept coming back time and time again.
After looking around the shop and interviewing the manager, the final verdict for A Shop Called Quest is that it is an amazing store and a must-see for all comic book fans. The comic book selection, as well as the store, may not be the biggest, but in the end, that is only a fraction of what matters. This store has personable employees. It has amazing community events to enjoy. It has a pleasant vibe. It has a supportive community. Most importantly, it has comics. In short, it has something for everyone to enjoy. This store practically embodies the “quality over quantity” mentality. As a result, the reason why customers have stayed with this store for such a long time is very clear. It is increasingly rare to find small businesses that prosper, and even rarer to find ones that provide good quality service. It is heartwarming to see A Shop Called Quest exceed in both areas so well. Redlands is fortunate to have such an amazing store in its community.