After 10 years, John Munn is closing Comic Book Ink.
"Im still saying Im sorry," he said earlier this week. "I made a promise that this would that they would always have this place to come to. And by closing these doors, Im breaking that promise."
It was a place where readers and collectors of comics, and players of board games, could gather with like-minded friends.
Munn and his customers celebrated those 10 years, and the end of the store, on Wednesday. The store shuts its doors at 9 p.m.
In June, Munn sent an email announcing the closure.
"Im sorry, I have let you down, he wrote.
He explained how a $30,000 line of credit became an albatross, how his banker regretted that there was no more credit to be had, and how, after speaking with his banker, Munn realized the worst.
He wrote that in the past, when met with adversity, I asked for your help. I knew that if I asked again, you would help. But I could not do that to you. Not again. Not anymore.
On Tuesday he began the workday by arranging comics on the shelves at the store at a shopping center along 84th Street South in Lakewood.
I want the shop to be as tidy as the day I opened it, he said.
The comic book industry had a reputation as cluttered and not family friendly. Weve always been a part of trying to change that. We were part of a new breed of retailers who succeeded in that. Ten years ago we were getting away from looking like the guy selling comics out of his moms basement. We wanted to look like a bookstore.
Munn, a graduate of Charles Wright Academy and Pacific Lutheran University, had worked at Borders before opening his store.
At 46, he is married and the father of two sons.
He found his first interest in comics at age 8 when his dad presented him with a box filled with Spiderman and Classics Illustrated.
I ripped through those comics, and I became a voracious reader, he said. It was quick escapism, but also very literate and had a great moral center. The good guys always won and the bad guys always lost.
Unlike in the real world.
Munn opened Comic Book Ink in the Proctor District by taking his credit cards to their limit.
The idea of a comic book store didnt appeal to banks, he said.
Nor did it necessarily appeal to his fiancée, back at the beginning.
I said Im going to open a comic book store. She looks at me you could see the fear, doubt, terror and uncertainty go across her face in 10 seconds, and she said, OK.
He is not one of those dealers primarily interested in the value of collectible comics, rather, he is a reader.
If you buy a steak, you take the plastic off, cook it and eat it. Its there to enjoy. Its something to make you feel good. Why would you deny yourself the pleasure?
He took in $34.17 that first day and he wondered, What have I done? Why did I think this was a good idea? I have endangered my family. I have signed a lease.
Success came slowly, in Proctor, and later at a new location on Portland Avenue, and finally on 84th.
Slowly but surely, people found us, he said.
He refinanced his home, paid off the credit card debt and when another popular store called OLearys closed, Munn found that his weekly gross sales increased.
But hed signed a note with a distributor. Then the economy crashed. Investors helped, but the business grew away from a comfortable profit.
With a now-settled bankruptcy several years ago, Munn said his credit rating has fallen from the high 600s to a current 312.
But he said theres a reason why he has remained in business this long.
Anybody who walks in that door has made a decision to come here. They want to spend time here I need to read my comics, I need to play my games, I need to get away. This is the equivalent of Cheers. The people who walk through the door are not ATM machines. They are family. The last thing I wanted to do was close. I sacrificed everything.
I see families walk through the door. I see a guy who hasnt had a job for four years who comes in to buy a comic so he can get away for four hours. I see wives of deployed soldiers who are sending comics to their husbands overseas. I see the same kid I was when I was 8 years old who comes in for his Spiderman.
One customer in the store this week, Michelle Grant of Tacoma, said, This place has made me happy. Id come here when I was having a bad day, and it would make me feel better.
Munn sold comics and he hosted meetings for players of games including "Magic: the Gathering," "HeroClix" and "Dungeons & Dragons."
"I wasnt going to let them down," Munn said.
"But here I am."
He will survive. His wife has found a new job, and in February Munn was named as managing artistic director at Lakewood Playhouse.
"I am overwhelmed by the number of angels that are on my shoulder," he said.
I cant imagine life without this. Closing it is literally killing a part of me.