In Business 3x3, a business retailer or executive will share their experience with three things they’ve done right, three things they’ve done wrong, and what else they’ve learned along the way.

"Did I want to work in a comic store?  I don’t know.  I just kind of fell into it."

That’s what Jermaine Exum says today.  Before the store?  Exum had exactly one previous job, changing oil and inspecting cars.  Exum moved to the Greensboro, North Calolina area in 1985, and became a customer at Acme Comics circa 1989.  He took a job there in 1996, and worked his way up the ladder until finally in January 2022, he reached the highest rung and became the store’s owner.

The journey is not just a professional one for Exum, but personal as well.

"I was pretty shy when I was younger, and I see many people walk into the store who seem the same," he says.  "We do our best to help them open up.  Now, I can speak to anyone with confidence, especially as I know the material so well."

Exum loves talking comics, especially at his @lordretail Twitter account. He shares weekly observations on new releases there, and some broader observations on what he’s done right and wrong here…


Exum is a true believer, and loves imparting his enthusiasm on to others.

"Sometimes there’s a series or a crossover or an event you really want your customers to connect to," he says.  "When you can stand behind it and say, 'We believe in it.  We believe in this project; these creators, we stand behind this thing,' it can go well."

Exum points way back to his earliest days in retail to some of his favorites, including Marvel’s 1996 Onslaught event, and DC’s 1999 Batman: No Man’s Land.  And he continues to sell them today.

"Sometimes it’s being able to impart to your customer, 'This is why this project is cool.  It’s worth your time, and your money,'" he says. "But you’ve got to believe it yourself."

Exum is a huge believer in learning all he can from those around him.

"Be part of ComicsPRO, attend meetings," he says.  "If you do that, you’ll be exposed to so many ideas and hear about successes and failures directly from your peers.  I get that some stores are small, maybe even one-person operations.  But if you get a chance, participate in whatever you can, even if its online only."

It took Exum a while to get into his networks, but he’s happy he did, and he tries to give back as much as he can as well.

"For a long time, I felt like I was isolated, out here on my own, doing my own thing," he says.  "But no.  There are good, like-minded comic stores out there that want to share.  And I’m open-source.  If there’s a new store out there doing it right and trying, I’m an open book.  I’ll tell you how I do things and how I work.  But go to these meetings, and you’ll hear from dozens of ‘me’s."

One of Exum’s go-to moves came from a retailer meeting, in fact.

"We began our book club about six or seven years ago," he says.  "We had gone to a Diamond retailer summit attached to Baltimore Comic Con, and I heard from The Comic Book Shop in Delaware.  They had a book club, I heard how they did it, so we wanted to see if we could adapt it in some form."

And adapt it, they did.

"We took a book, attached a discount to it, and the last Wednesday of the month, after closing time, members will convene and talk about the material, really pore over the pages and talk about how it made them feel," Exum says. "It builds community.  Customers now know each other by name. You see people meet people.  It’s nice.  It’s a really good thing."

And there’s a wealth of material to bond over.

"We never do the same book twice—at least not yet—so new members may miss out on a classic," Exum says.  "But there’s always something new and fresh to get to."


Pumping up your customers?  Good.  Pumping up your own stock levels too much? Maybe not so good…

"There’s always a series, a graphic novel, you think will really connect with the audience that maybe didn’t, or just didn’t in its time," Exum laments.  "Avengers: Endgame and Avengers Forever, we got kind of a tip that this was the thing to get.  So we carried the issues and loaded up on the Avengers Forever paperback.  We ordered a lot of copies, really front-loaded on the thing."

That front-load… took a long time to off-load.

"The direction of the Avengers movies and whatnot, it really wasn’t what we expected it to be," Exum says. But there is a silver lining.

"Now that the Ant-Man: Quantumania movie has come out, millions of people know Kang the Conqueror by name, but they don’t really know how he works," Exum says.  "So once where we invested heavily in a lot of graphic novels, we’ve finally sold through and had to reorder.  But dating back to, what? 1996?  That’s a long time."

Exum likes being "open-source," but has learned to be a tad wary with his trust.

"I’ve kept staff to the detriment of the business, taken checks my instincts told me were bad and indeed they were; I've done it all," he says.

But he knows he can’t just cut the world off.  No man is an island, we are told.

"Trust in and reliance on other people is essential, unavoidable, and necessary," Exum says.  "But there are right people and there are wrong people.  Your instincts will tell you when the wrong people are close, but in the past, I fought my instincts and got burned."

Exum now relies on his instincts, and builds strong relationships with those he does trust.

"When the right people are with you, you have to throw in with them," he says.  "And they'll throw in with you.  Nothing happens in a vacuum, and whatever it is you're doing, you'll need help from the right people."

Comics and graphic novels are the bread-and-butter at Acme Comics, and whereas Exum believes in product diversification at his store, he’s careful about just which areas to delve into.

"At one point we carried HeroClix gaming pieces, but we are not a gaming store," he says.  "We utilized the pieces as a low-cost figurine as opposed to a game item.  But there was a point where sales slowed and we made the easy decision to discontinue the product here."

Exum and Acme got into toys and tchotchkes for a while, but soon found there wasn’t much of a thirst for that at his store.   These days, he limits himself to a few items and replica Star Wars lightsabers.  And there’s still a silver lining there.

"Through that we learned that we do have clientele for high end Star Wars items," Exum says.

"I’ve been here since 1996?  Sometimes that staggers me.  It’s a long time."

"And this is 40 years for this business in total.  Acme started in 1983.  That’s a big deal for any business, let alone a comic store.  It’s a huge deal for me to be able to continue this.  We’ve now got people who bought their first comic book here bringing in their kids for their first comic book.  It means something to me that we’re able to do that."

"We live in a world where buying comics can be as simple as 'hit button.'  It’s nice that people want to come here, be part of the store, chat with us, ask questions, see what other people are picking up.  It’s a real experience here, a real world."

"My list of mistakes is long.  That’s just how my brain works."

"I love being able to email other good, well-intentioned stores.  Sometimes it’s just, 'How you doing?  What’s selling there?  How’s your week?'  One of my favorite things is being able to talk business and talk comics with other stores."

"With publishers appearing to not want to host a backlist as a point of pride, sometimes we are compelled to order a 'lifetime supply' of certain graphic novels, in which case we have liquid cash tied up in a thing that may sell over time or potentially not at all."

Click Gallery below for store pics!