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Comic-book store a super find in Collingwood’s downtown

For this week’s What’s Up Wednesday, we sat down with Neil Crowe, owner of The Canadian Comic Bin at 368 Hurontario Street
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Neil Crowe, owner of The Canadian Comic Bin at 386 Hurontario Street in Collingwood. Jessica Owen/CollingwoodToday

From teacher to musician to comic book fan, Neil Crowe has had a few jobs in his life.

Since opening his first brick-and-mortar store The Canadian Comic Bin in Collingwood back in June, Crowe can now add shop owner to his resume.

“I started collecting (comics) when I was a kid. I worked in a comic book store when I was in high school and first year of university,” said Crowe.

Crowe started his online business about six years ago after wanting to break away from the 9-to-5 grind. Originally from Thunder Bay, Ont., he opted to make the move to Collingwood three years ago.

“I was a teacher. But, when I started selling comic books and was making more money and didn’t have to deal with 30 kids everyday, I kind of made that switch,” he said with a laugh.

“I used to sell on eBay like everyone else. I had a problem with eBay. They had a lot of fees. So I created my own website to see if that would work, and it did. It took time, but it took off a few years ago,” he said.

Crowe was an elementary school teacher for 14 years, but didn’t see himself following that path as a life-long endeavour.

“I gave it the old college try,” he said.

When Crowe initially started selling comics online, he was also touring as a musician.

“I like the hobby, I like the business and I’m good at it. It’s hard to ignore something you’re good at doing,” he said.

“There’s different aspects to it. Some people just like to read it. Some people just like collecting everything about a character. There’s also people who invest in it. It’s just like stocks. (The value) can go up and down.”

During the past two years especially, Crowe said the store’s online success led him to consider opening a brick-and-mortar location. At the end of June, that consideration became a reality.

“I wanted to keep investing in the business. I figured that if I had a physical store, people would come in and shop while I’m doing what I do anyway: selling stuff on the website,” he said. “It’s working so far.”

Crowe has found himself surprised by how many kids he has coming into the store to peruse his collection.

“Normally (when selling) in my online store or when I go to conventions, most people are in their late 20s to 50s, and they’re collectors,” he said. “Collingwood’s never really had a pop-culture-y thing like this for kids to do. A lot of families come in.”

To appeal to the younger demographic that walks through his doors, Crowe has added more comics for kids and cartoons to his merchandise.

When asked which comic series is his favourite, Crowe pauses to consider his answer.

“Everyone loves Spiderman. My main collection now is John Constantine,” he said. “My collecting has gone way down because the store is basically my collection. It kind of satiates that need to have things.”

Looking toward the future, if the comic book store continues to be successful Crowe said he sees himself incorporating one-off nights into the mix at the store where comic lovers can congregate.

“I’d like to get a liquor licence for a night and partnering with a brewery or distillery, just for fun once every two months or something,” he said. “I still have to look into it.”

Crowe’s online store is still going strong, and he encourages people to shop from home and then come to pick up in store if that method better suits them.

“I put out a box of new comics everyday, so it’s not stagnant stock,” he said. “It’s cool though when people come in who have never read a comic before. I’ll make some suggestions and they’ll come back and pick some more. It feels good.”