We interviewed Lee Hester of Lee's Comics, who has two retail locations in the San Francisco Bay area, on how he sells a wide variety of comics and maintains good relations with the community:


Tell us a little about your store--number of square feet, product categories carried, type of location, number of years in business, type of customer base.

We have two stores.  One has a thousand square feet of floor space and the other has two thousand.  We carry a full selection of new and back issue comics, graphic novels, toys, t-shirts, games, cards, anime DVDs, and preservation supplies.  We are the San Francisco Bay Area's leading comics retailer, and have been in business here for over 20 years.  Our average customer is largely the same as other comic book stores, with a preponderance of adult males. We try to add to our clientele by providing a clean, bright, friendly environment.


What institutions (schools, libraries, churches, police, charities) do you interact with to accomplish this?  Any specific examples and suggestions for other retailers would be useful.

Since I have made my living selling comics for all my adult life, I try to promote comics every chance I get.  I am frequently interviewed for stories on comics in newspapers, radio, and on TV.  We donate comics and toys to many local schools as fundraisers for various events.  We do displays in local libraries.  We sell graphic novels to libraries, and give advice on stocking them.  I have spoken before library groups.  I have set up displays at countless conventions and shows.


We do regular events at the store, including appearances by famous artists and authors. We also have sales, and movie ticket giveaways. I promote these events with prominent advertising and PR.


How do you manage material for 'mature' readers in your store?

I think of Lee's Comics as a bookstore, therefore, I do not segregate mature material.  We have sections for family friendly titles right by the doors.  For the sake of completion, we do carry a full line of adult's only titles.  These we stock in a discreet sequestered section.  You must 18 or older to enter this section, and we do check ID.


Have you ever had problems in your store with parents or others regarding the content of what you sell, how did you handle it, and what was the outcome?

We have received very few complaints about the adult section.  As with any complaint, we try to listen to the concern of the customer.  Ultimately, it is my choice what titles to carry in my bookstore, and the customer can choose to shop elsewhere if that offends them.


How did you handle the comics appropriate for different age levels for Free Comic Book Day?

I personally handed out the free comics here in Mountain View.  Young children are almost always accompanied by their parents, as most people visit my locations by car.  I made suggestions for all parents as to what titles would be best for their children.  Mostly I recommended the Donald Duck comic for the youngest readers.  I did point out that the X-Men was a little more mature.  If the parent wanted to get it for their children anyway, I did not stop them.  As a parent, I feel that it's ultimately the parent's responsibility to monitor what their children read, and watch.  I do not let my 7 year-old twin girls watch the evening news (I don't like to watch it either, for that matter), but I would not suggest banning it from the airwaves.