A shop for fans of all ages and backgrounds. Photo: Jason Cohen
With the impending development on St. Mark’s and Third Avenue in the East Village, the culture is definitely changing. Now another longtime business has announced it will be shuttering its doors.
At the end of the month, St. Mark’s Comics will be closing after 36 years. Located at 11 St. Mark’s Place, the store opened in 1983 and has become a staple in the community.
The shop appealed to people of all ages and backgrounds. On a recent Monday, it was mobbed, with children, teens and adults looking through comics that included DC, Marvel and pretty much anything that has ever been published.
“I wanted to run a good comic shop that was my vision,” said owner Mitch Cutler. “After 36 years of 90 hours a week, you run out of energy to fight the obstacles.”
Cutler, a South Bronx native and comic book aficionado, took over the store in 1984 at the age of 19. As a kid, he never imagined owning it for this long nor did he expect it would become as popular as it became.
“You do it at 19 because you don’t understand what you’re getting into,” Cutler said.
Cutler credits the shop’s success for three reasons: its hours, staff and selection. The store is open until 1 a.m., making it accessible to late-night shoppers in the East Village.
According to Cutler, catering to their customers’ needs is what kept people coming back to the store. Whether they needed to ship it, hold it or locate it, he and his colleagues almost always found the item or items, he said.
“We carried almost absolutely everything that was published, which is something almost no one else will do,” he stressed. “We’ve been blessed with an exceptional staff and really go out of our way to try and say yes. Whatever a customer wants, we try to figure out how to do that.”
Cutler even described St. Mark’s Comics as being “world famous.” One of his regular customers was a cop, and several years ago the police officer was in Paris on vacation. While there, he was in a comic book shop, where after making small talk with the owner, the cop found out the owner had visited St. Mark’s Comics as well.
After more than three decades in the East Village, Cutler feels astonished at the amount of texts, calls, emails, social media posts and people that have come in the store since he announced the closure several weeks ago.
“It’s fascinating to have to schedule interviews after 36 years,” he said. “It’s all sort of an outer-body experience.”
While he has met famous people and heard many interesting stories, there were always challenges.
“Was there ever a time when it was easy?” he commented. “There was never a time I was lighting my cigars from $100 bills.”
Cutler explained there are several reasons for the impending closure, but one of them is the planned development of an office building at the Northeast corner of St. Mark’s and Third Avenue. This has already forced other stores to close and he feels once construction begins, it will kill his business along with many others.
“There are many obstacles in running a retail business in the city of New York,” Cutler said.
Among the many customers who have visited the shop before its closure was Kevin Clark, who moved to the Village five months ago and has frequented the store several times. Growing up in New Jersey, he never found such a unique place with such a great selection, he said.
“It’s a good hole in the wall comic book shop, but it had new issues,” Clark said. “I’m super upset about it closing. Not to be emotional, comic book stores are something so great. It helped solidify the culture in the city, especially in the Village.”