By Jeremy Essig
It's fitting that the story that rebooted some of history's most famous superheroes also began a new era for St. Louis' bestl-known comic-book shop.
Star Clipper Comics relaunched from its new downtown location under cloudy skies Saturday morning. In a moment of beautiful synchronicity, Flashpoint, a 2011 comic-book series that began anew the histories of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, among others, was the first item rung through new store's till.
Much as Flashpoint made some dramatic alterations to comic history even while maintaining some continuity, the new Star Clipper location was also a distinct mix of old and new. The smell of fresh paint and new fixtures combined with recognizable signage and some familiar faces from the store's old Delmar location to begin the store's next chapter.
"It reminds me a lot of the old Star Clipper," said Thiran Udawatta, who purchased Flashpoint in addition to another title. "You don't really see a comic book store of this quality.... It's very welcoming to people who may not even like comics."
About ten minutes before the store opened, Udawatta -- adorned in a Spider-Man T-shirt and hoodie -- stood in a crowd of about twenty people waiting for Star Clipper 2.0 to be unveiled. A second Spider-Man fan, nine-year-old Daniel Scott, was also among those standing by.
Scott, who was searching for both Pokemon cards and comic books, came from Illinois with his father, sixteen-year-old sister and her boyfriend. The Scotts usually frequent Fantasy Books --a group of Illinois comic and gaming stores also owned by Star Clippers new owners, Steve Unverferth and Tony Favello.
Mike Scott, Daniel's father, said the trip was prompted by a curiosity to check out the new place as well as a chance to see Favello, a friend he hadn't seen in awhile.
Michael Lugo, who appeared in front of the store a few minutes before the Scotts, was looking forward to his first Star Clipper experience, having gotten into comic books in the time between the Delmar location's closing and the grand re-opening on Washington Avenue.
"I want to start reading some comics, but I don't know where to jump in. I'm kind of hoping they'll provide some guidance," Lugo said. "The one in The Loop had quite the reputation, so I wanted to come down here and see what this one had going for itself."
Knighton Clark, though not a comic book collector himself, said he was also very familiar with the store's reputation as he poured coffee at the Washington Ave. Post, one of Star Clippers' new downtown neighbors. Clark said that he's definitely glad that the store had re-opened as part of the downtown business community.
According to store manager Keya Matanagh, the feeling is mutual.
"[Downtown] has a lot of promise and is experiencing a lot of growth," Matanagh said. "We're hoping to shift the dynamic a bit down here, make it less nightlife-oriented and more a hotspot of activity all day, every day."
Star Clipper's voyage into that dynamic officially began at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Assistant manager Hailey Anderson cracked the door, slid her face though the opening, and welcomed the crowd. Unlike Matanagh and many others staffers at work during the opening, Anderson was a new hire.
"I loved the product, and I heard that they were opening downtown," Anderson said, glitter glistening over her eyelids. "I just felt drawn to it and there hasn't been a singe day I haven't been happy here."
In addition to a few new employees, both Anderson and Matanagh said an increased focus on gaming will be another change customers will notice. Offering patrons a chance to participate in games such as Magic the Gathering and HeroClix is something the store is trying to "introduce people to," Matanagh said.
"We're definitely hoping to promote a casual air to the gaming here," he added.
While the store may feature new events, a few new employees and a new address, the mission, according to Matanagh, is still the same.
"[T]he two locations are pretty similar," he said. "We're doing that on purpose so that we carry on the tradition the Loop location began; that of being a haven for the St. Louis comics community, catering to both mainstream and independent tastes."