Friendly Neighborhood Comics Celebrates 6 Years in BusinessJan 30, 2015 07:00AM ● By Steven Chisholm
FNC cashier Tania Perez
On Saturday, Jan. 17, comics enthusiasts and bookworms were invited to celebrate Friendly Neighborhood Comics’ (FNC’s) 6th anniversary. Ernie Pelletier, owner of FNC, invited well-known authors and artists in for signings, while hosting an array of sales on much of the store’s merchandise.
In an economy that is unforgiving of private businesses, Pelletier has helped his business to thrive in a definitive corner of the market. “It’s been a lot of work and a lot of fun,” he said of his first 6 years at FNC. “A lot more work than I anticipated, but also, it’s been far than I thought it would be.”
Pelletier worked as an attorney before opening FNC. Although he still picks up the occasional case, much of his time is now devoted to his true passion: comics and graphic novels. When asked when he had first become a fan, he responded, “I was a kid, just learning how to read, and my parents would give my brothers and me comics all the time—to encourage us to read, I’m sure—and I just fell in love with them.”
Now, he shares the same enthusiasm with his coworkers and customers. Even people unfamiliar with comic books and graphic novels are encouraged to witness the range of publications that FNC has to offer. “I can see for a new person walking in the door, it’s easy to get overwhelmed because there’s so much you could read,” said Pelletier. “The best advice I could give to somebody is just come into the shop and ask somebody—let them know what you’re interested in, and we can find a book for you.” In addition to the avid customer service, the store is outfitted with “shelf-talkers,” cards that identify popular series and provide brief, original synopses by the staff members.
As for Pelletier’s personal recommendations, Captain America is his favorite superhero. He noted the successful runs in recent years, such as the adaption of the Captain America storylines to the big screen. Also, he suggested Manifest Destiny, which he described as “the Lewis and Clark expedition, [where] they encounter monsters out in the American West.” He noted, however, that the renowned Saga series, a work that spans several genres, is one of the store’s biggest sellers.
Ernie Pelletier (pictured above) recognizes the evolution of comic books throughout the decades and tailors his store to stay current with the ever-changing trends while also staying true to the basic roots of popular comic series. “There’s a far greater diversity of material than there used to be,” he said. “Ten years ago, it was a superhero market; now there are a lot of very popular crime comics, fantasy comics, science fiction comics, slice-of-life comics; there really is a graphic novel or comic for pretty much every taste and every interest.”
As for future plans for FNC, Ernie Pelletier has his eyes set on expansion. Not only does he seek to increase the store’s attention to online sales, but he also plans to invest in more physical locations. Pelletier recognizes that online shopping is an increasingly popular alternative, yet he explained the advantages of physical locations: “One of the cool things about having a brick-and-mortar store is that you’re getting constant market feedback every day. The person behind the register becomes your marketing department because you’re getting constant customer interaction. It’s really helpful.”
For FNC’s 6th anniversary, Bellingham’s own Amy Bartelloni was invited to the store for signings. She is the author of the successful young adult dystopian novels the Andromeda series. The series’ first novel, Andromeda, was released in May, and its successor, Orion’s Curse, was released in October. Bartelloni hopes to have the third installment published by spring.
Comic book artist, writer, and painter Andy Fish was also in attendance to celebrate the anniversary. Fish authors and illustrates issues from several famous comic books series. He recollected a time when his desire was to become a movie director but realized that working with and for people hindered his ability to use his creativity to its fullest potential. That’s when he turned to writing and illustrating. “When you’re a comic book artist, you can do a multi-million dollar movie for the cost of a pencil and a piece of paper, and nobody can tell you it’s wrong,” said Fish. His latest graphic novel, Geeks and Greeks, written by Steve Altes, is about high-tech pranks at MIT.
Accompanying her husband was illustrator and painter Veronica Fish. Mrs. Fish regularly submits a variety of featured works to art galleries across the country, and is currently working on the comic book series Pirates of Mars. She expressed her enthusiasm for possibly illustrating an upcoming issue of the famous comic book series Atomic Robo.
Finally, Tom Cabral, creator of Cornerstone Creations, was available at the celebration to sign some of his original illustrations. Cabral has an array of talents, including his knack for drawing caricatures, painting murals, and carving wooden crafts. Cabral was a truck driver in his previous occupation, but became disabled. Instead of yielding to his disability, he took it as an opportunity to pursue his true passion and express his creative nature through art.
Many customers were in attendance at FNC’s 6th anniversary, meeting with the renowned authors and artists and taking advantage of the many sales. However, despite the flair and excitement of the event, Pelletier didn’t want to lose sight of the store’s main mission: “One of the most important parts that I always emphasize about the store is that it was founded on the principle of promoting literacy, and we try to work with schools and libraries to help with that mission. That’s something that’s important to me and that we’ll have to continue to reinvest ourselves in going forward.”
Friendly Neighborhood Comics (www.FriendlyComics.com) is located at 191 Mechanic St./Rte. 140 on the Bellingham/Franklin line.