Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wonder World

And a favorite comic/game store is shutting down.

Wonder World, based out of Burien, is shutting down at the end of January. Situated in among a series of strip malls and small local businesses, across the street from a struggling (later defunct) department store, Wonder World was a smorgesbord of gaming, comics, anime, paperbacks, figures, miniatures and toys. When I moved out here eight years back, I was impressed with the depth and scope of this place. I quickly filled out a lot of my back stock (Harn supplements I hadn't seen in years), and hit the store every week or two, to see what was in (and picked up a lot of games that otherwise I would have missed). Even when I had my comics held by another store (more recently Book World), I would rely on Wonder World for the missed issues as well as exposure to new books that might not be ordered by other stores (such as Ex Machina and Invincible).

What is boils down to, however, is real estate. As I've noted elsewhere, comic shops (and game stores and used book stores) depend on cheap commercial space, and lots of it. The reason that Wonder World was so large and diverse is that it was in a backwater area, where the rents were cheap. I was talking with Dave, the owner, who stated flat out he was getting the space for "warehouse rates".

Not anymore. That defunct department store across the street? That and its entire block is going to be ripped up for one of these big upscale mall/condo operations that are now in vogue. Recharge the downtown district! Make Burien a destination! Improve the tax base! The net result of this is that the owner of the building that contains Wonder World wants to go upscale as well. making major renovations and hopefully bringing in more profitable tennants.

Exit, Wonder World, at least as a brick and mortar. They're already doing a good Internet business, and the plan is to disperse the stock into storage and keep going with the company online. But the ability to go and brouse through back issues of forgotten games and low-distribution comics will be gone. I support Dave and his gang for their decision, and at the same time I'm going to miss the place.

More later,