Blah Blah Blog – Death of a Hen

A post from my Marvel blog of days gone by, talking about the closing of a comic book shop that I used to occasionally frequent in my fan days. The Newark, Delaware branch of Captain Blue Hen is still in business even today.

Death of a Hen

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Tomorrow we’ll tally up the results and post the nominees for assorted categories in the 2007 GOLDEN LOEB AWARDS. So there’s still time to put in a good word for your favorite titles or creators, just a few entries back from this one.

I was saddened to read on Tom Spurgeon’s excellent Comics Reporter blog of the potential impending demise of the Lancaster, Pennsylvania branch of Captain Blue Hen Comics. During the decade that I lived in Delaware (home of the University of Delaware’s Fightin’ Blue Hens, hence the name of the operation), the Newark branch of CBH was my regular store, at least from the point where I could drive. The guy who owned and ran that shop, Paul Stitik, was a High School teacher who had partnered up with another guy to start the operation. I forget the name of his partner offhand, but he moved to Lancaster and opened the branch up there.

The Lancaster CBH was about an hour’s drive away, a treacherous hour on small, winding roads that snaked through Amish country. It would be a regular thing on a trip to the Lancaster store to wind up behind a horse-drawn buggy and have to crawl along for a mile or two until you could finally go around. Due to the distance, it wasn’t a shop I frequented regularly, but it was well worth making the trip to for one important reason:

The Lancaster Captain Blue Hen’s had a twenty-five cent room.

This was a massive room, the size of some shops I’ve been in, with just boxes and boxes and boxes of unsorted, unbagged comics from the last twenty or so years, all priced-to-move at a quarter a pop. If memory serves, they also gave even better terms if you filled up a long box, or hit certain buying thresholds. And while not all of the material was choice, the sheer volume of it meant that you would inevitably walk out with a massive stack of books whenever you made the journey up that way.

It also had a particular ambiance, in that the store was located in a converted church basement–you almost had to know that it was there beforehand if you were going to have any hope of finding it. I remember it being relatively well organized and relatively clean and inviting–but not too much so. There was a certain special magic to those dusty, slightly moldy, slightly sinister comic shops of my youth, a promise of unknown, unseen wonders for those daring enough to pass through the doors.

I would typically make my way up there once or twice a year, usually around the X-Mas holiday, when like-minded friends would be in town for the break. I can remember almost being killed on one such venture on the way back from the store, when a buddy of mine launched into an extemporaneous comedy routine right as we were on a particularly nasty stretch of road, and I was laughing so hard I lost control of the car for a second.

I haven’t set foot in the place, though, in close to twenty years. I had been vaguely in the area two or three years back, and thought about swinging by, but didn’t remember enough of the details about its location to get there. And in point of fact, I wasn’t entirely sure that it still existed after so much time. Nevertheless, it’s still kind of a shame to hear this news. It was one of those magical places of my youth, and I liked the intangible idea that it was still there for those who came after me. But I guess time has a way of grinding away at places like this; the old must ever make way for the new.

The Newark Captain Blue Hen still seems to be thriving, though, no longer under the management of Paul Stitak, but in the hands of his long-time underling Joe Murray.

More later.

Tom B

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