Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Just One Comic…can be pretty tough

Fu Jitsu #1 from Aftershock Comics
If your store orders the comic your looking for, great. If not, reorders can be a pretty inefficient system. Find out how comic stores are looking to keep up with DoorDash HERE.

Jim McLauchlin

Nine Comics Stores and Coaching Basketball

Ed Sandburg, courtesy Comics-N-Stuff
Nine comic stores is a LOT, and coaching your five (!) sons in baseball and basketball adds to the hectic. Ed Sandburg of San Diego's Comics-N-Stuff finds a way to manage, and you can learn how HERE.

Jim McLauchlin

Windows of Opportunity OPEN for Comic Stores

Mech Cadet Yu from BOOM! Studios
Traditionally, comic stores get a one-week jump on book stores for new graphic novels. But some publishers are pushing that to MONTHS. Read all about it at icv2.

Jim McLauchlin

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When Internet Passions Become Legit Businesses

R. Sikoryak's Unquotable Trump
If you can dream it, the internet can allow you to monetize it.

That's not where R. Sikoryak, Aaron Reynolds, or Christian Dumais may have started, but that's where they would up. How did their crazy-deep passions become legit businesses? Read all about it here at Newsarama.

Jim McLauchlin


One of a seeming million Bat Labels

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Man Who Invented Free Comics

Stan Lee with Joe Field, courtesy Joe Field
To many, Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics is "the man who invented Free Comic Book Day." But in addition to that, he has 30 years of retail experience under his belt. Read all about what he's learned over at icv2.

Jim McLauchlin

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Greatest Pint in Los Angeles

Beer and peanuts, MacLeod Ale
The best place to have a pint in Los Angeles is…in a garage.

Tourists may flock to the Sunset Strip, the newly super-gentrified downtown, or the perpetually gentrifying Hollywood, but if you really want to have a great beer in an even greater atmosphere, there’s only one place: MacLeod Ale.

Make sure you look carefully. MacLeod is shoehorned into a totally industrial neighborhood in Van Nuys, sandwiched between a body shop and another body shop on a block with 12 more body shops (we counted). Can’t find it? MacLeod’s Website cheerily tells you to “Look for the lime-green bike rack!”
Once you find it, you’ve found a place that’s so damn down-home, you’d swear you just warped out of L.A. MacLeod sports a bare concrete floor, a plain concrete bar top, and stools straight out of an 8th grade shop class. It’s also the micro-est of micro-breweries, specializing in cask-conditioned ales served at 54 degrees. And they’ll give you a discount if you come in wearing a kilt, or with your dog, or with a pig. Really.
MacLeod is the brainchild of Jennifer Febre Boase. Her unlikely road to brewmistress of Van Nuys started a few years ago when she and her husband decided to learn some new musical instruments. She took up the bagpipes and really loved it. He took up the cello and really loved…his cello teacher. The two split, but Jennifer quickly found Alastair Boase, and remarried.

Jennifer saw the change as a chance to reinvent herself, and set up a new status quo. The pipers she knew were all beer lovers—stereotypes have to come from somewhere, right?—and Jen started touring local microbreweries with her pipe band. She drank, she learned, and she rolled the dice, selling her house and cashing in her IRA early, penalties be damned. And since Alastair’s grandfather was named Roland MacLeod, well…everything fit. MacLeod Ale was born. And she wouldn’t change a thing.

“Initially, I just thought about starting a company that could make money,” Jen laughs today. “I really didn’t think about the community-building aspect. I was just thinking about myself. But as I’ve seen this community grow, it’s dawned on me that we’ve really got something here, and that’s really exciting.”

MacLeod has become a crazy-eclectic neighborhood gathering spot. On a random Wednesday night at 6:30, 35 customers fill the taproom. Then again, it’s the monthly stop for the Yarnover truck. Ladies come by to buy yarn, knit, and have an ale. Bartender Nicole Geletka approves. “What I didn’t know is that women who knit like to drink,” she says. “So maybe that’s a hobby for me.”

A yarn truck is just the tip of the iceberg for MacLeod. Alastair flexes his brain cells on promotions, and comes up with some interesting ones. The Burns Supper salutes famed Scottish poet Robert Burns (with haggis, of course) on his birthday, and MacLeod celebrates the end of prohibition on Dec. 5, giving its customers period costumes and “We Want Beer” picket signs to march down the street with. But the crown jewel of MacLeod promos is the simple “Buy a Friend a Beer” board.

Customers can pre-buy a beer for someone, and the staff writes the name on a chalkboard. The board is periodically shared on social media, and if you see your name, hey—free beer waiting for you.

The board has taken on an amazing communal spirit. People have bough beers for “any teacher,” “Guy with a Duff tattoo,” and “Willie the forklift driver.” Just before Veteran’s Day, the board was littered with squares that simply said “Veteran.” Harrison Ford was on the board, now gone (presumably, he claimed his beer). Nury Martinez, who represents Van Nuys on L.A.’s City Council in the 6th district, has been on the board. “She’s come in a few times,” Jen says matter-of-factly.

And Martinez has company. Cindy Montanez, who’s running against Martinez in an attempt to unseat her, recently scheduled a meet-and-greet at MacLeod on Feb. 13. We’ll let you know how the election goes on March 3.

But politics aside, the big star at MacLeod is Rosie, a micro-pig owned by a local resident who pops in from time to time. The pig drives business. “Rosie is so popular. If I put on Instagram that Rosie’s here, people come in immediately,” Jen says. “She doesn’t bother anyone. She likes to stay among the peanut shells.”

By 8 p.m., the Wednesday night knitting crowd is up to about 50 people. One of them is Grant Paulis, a 30-year-old camera operator from Van Nuys. Paulis hit the MacLeod taproom on the day it opened in 2014, and came back every day (“I had perfect citizenship!” he exclaims) for two months until he finally had to go out of town for a bachelor party and missed a day. But that’s nothing. His twin brother, Sean, made it 90 days straight form the opening. “Then his girlfriend finally got mad, and she would no longer accept any explanation of why he had to go to the brewery every day,” he says.

Paulis knows his beer. He loves MacLeod’s offerings, but hates beerier-than-thou attitude. He tried to bring his dad into the world, but a tap-pulling snob at another brewery shot dad down.

“My dad said ‘I like amber lagers. You have anything like that?’ And the guy told him ‘Amber is not a style of beer, it’s a color.’ He was that total craft beer douchebag,” Paulis says. “But you get none of that here. You get, ‘Hey, would you like a pint?’ That’s the way it should be.”

Boase knows regulars like Paulis are getting MacLeod off the ground, with both bent elbows and word-of-mouth. “Craft beer” may be booming everywhere, but a startup is still a startup, and up-front costs can be staggering. “You can’t survive without a taproom initially,” Boase says. “It takes a while to build retail. We’re just getting there now.” MacLeod is providing about 14 barrels a week, approximately 450 gallons, to 22 bars in the L.A. area, and just secured a distributor that will expand their reach from San Diego to Santa Barbara. That’s good news for Boase. She’d love to be a bigger microbrewery, but never lose her roots.

“I like the idea of doing something right here at home, boosting Van Nuys,” she says. “We’re thumbing our nose at Hollywood. They can have the hipsters. We’re happy with the forklift drivers.”

Paulis agrees. “Anyone who’s ever pulled a tap here is very personable. I’ve hung out with most of them off the clock, whether it’s at another bar, or at my house for ‘extra innings,’” he says. “There aren’t TVs, so you have to talk to people, and I think we’ve forgot as a society that that’s how you make new friends. I’ve made lots of friends here. I know most of the regulars by name. It’s a comfortable, homey place. It’s like my own personal ‘Cheers.’”
  


—MacLeod Ale is located at 14741 Calvert St. in tragically unhip Van Nuys in Los Angeles. Look for the lime-green bike rack!

Originally published February 2015 atBerkshire Hathaway Travel

750 Sodas, One Man's Passion

John Nese of Galco's Old World Grocery
It isn’t just beautiful old architecture that falls to the wrecking ball. Sometimes tastes do, too. The sweet tang of Nesbitt’s, the “finest orange soft drink ever made.” The crisp bark of Bubble Up. The surprisingly different flavors of Dad’s and Hires root beers.

But there’s a place where dreams live forever—in Los Angeles, of course. John Nese has created a haven for more than 750 different sodas, many of which you were sure had gone the way of the dinosaur. Welcome to Galco’s Old World Grocery.

Nese is no fool. He knows it’s tough to fight the Krogers and Albertsons of the world. That’s why, in the mid-’90s, he converted his family-owned grocery store to a super-specialized soda stop. You won’t find regular ol’ Coke or Pepsi here—you can get that anywhere. But you will find Faygo Red Pop, Brownie Caramel Cream Root Beer, and Delaware Punch.

“What the general public doesn’t know is that supermarket shelves are bought and paid for,” Nese says. “Coca-Cola and Pepsi buy up all the space, and Coca-Cola doesn’t care about anything unless they can do a million cases. We don’t do that here. We care about one case. We care about what you want.”

What people often want are memories. “People will come in, see something they haven’t in 20 years, and freak out. They’ll tell you the first time they tasted it. They’ll say, ‘My grandmother used to give me this. But that was many years ago. I thought this was gone.’ Sometimes, they’ll cry. It evokes memories. We hear it a lot.”

Tears of joy are only part of the ambiance at Galco’s. About one third of the floor space is devoted to storage and a burgeoning mail-order business. The product? Nese is down to soda, beer, candy, a sandwich counter, and a few bags of chips. Three plastic tables sit inside for folks who want to lounge with a sandwich and soda, while a small patio area outside boasts a few more picnic tables. And make sure to look up. The tops of display cases are mini-museums, home to cool original pop bottles and cases of yesteryear.

And Nese thinks that part of his mission is making sure that yesteryear crashes into today. That’s what happened a few years ago when he clamored for Bubble Up, a then-defunct lemon-lime soda.

“The manufacturer said, ‘Why? No one’s gonna buy it.’” Nese says. “I told him, ‘You’re right. If I don’t have it on my shelf, no one’s ever going to buy it. So let’s fix that.’ He hemmed and hawed around, and I said, ‘If you do it, I’ll take your entire run. But it’s gotta be done right—cane sugar, a glass bottle, all of that.’ He agreed. I didn’t even know how many cases I’d have to take, and in he end, I still took them—I just said I’d have to do it over the course of six months. In the meantime, he tried to sell some locally. A month later, it was flying off the shelf for me. I called him up and said, ‘Hey, Mike, send me the next batch.’ And guess what? He was sold out of my six-month supply! He said, ‘You’ll be happy to know the next run of Bubble Up is next week. It’s back.’ He found it had a pulse, and if he put it out there, people would find it and want it. We brought it back.”

Galco’s dabbles in beer as well, and true to their soda mission, it’s hard to find a Bud Light there. They carry mostly regional breweries such as Rogue Ale and Anchor Steam. And wouldn’t you know it? Schlitz—regular ol’ Schlitz—is back. Why?

“I complained,” Nese says matter-of-factly. “They told me it couldn’t sell. I told them to fire their salespeople. They finally brought back their original brewmasters and used the 1960 formula. They brewed a 30-day supply of Schlitz, and rolled it out in Milwaukee. Guess what? It was gone in three days. Now we carry it here.”

And they recognize Nese’s contribution. Schlitz just did three prototypes for a new 16-ounce can. Nese has can #2, a gift from Schlitz.

At the urging of his daughter, Nese has added old-time candy to the mix as well. If you want a Pearson’s Nut Goodie or a Zagnut, Galco’s has them. They also have Nese’s favorite.

“The Goo Goo Cluster, from Tennessee,” he says, almost falling into a Homer Simpson drool. “Oh, my goodness. I tried the peanut, and I thought it was the best candy bar I ever tasted. Then I found out they have the supreme, with pecans! You eat that on a hot day. It melts in your mouth, and it’s great.”

Memories and melts-in-your mouth come surprisingly cheap. Most sodas and candies are $1.29 at Galco’s. Nese says the average price for an item is about $2, as some imports and very hard-to-find items might run you a whopping $5. Nese is always looking to add more—and to drop some of his encyclopedic soda knowledge on you.

“People are looking for Afri-Cola right now,” he says, speaking of a little-known German brand. “It’s a dry-finish cola that’s really good. We had Afri-Cola in the United States from 1898 ’til about 10 years ago, with bottling here in the U.S., but then they went away. But now it’s making a comeback in Cologne! We have no way to get it now, but maybe soon. I really like that one.”

And if Galco’s can’t fulfill your taste off the shelf…you can make your own soda. Their “Creation Station” dispenses carbonated water, and you can make your own mix. Nese has anywhere from 60 to 100 flavors on a given day, including coconut, watermelon, and even habanero lime.

“People enjoy making things,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be pre-programmed. Up here behind me, we have this sign. It says ‘Freedom of Choice.’ People should have choices. You take choices away, and you get little robots. We don’t do that.”


—Galco’s Old World Grocery is located at 5702 York Blvd., in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood. They’re online at www.SodaPopStop.com

Originally published January, 2015 by Berkshire Hathaway Travel