Husband and wife business partners Bill and Tiffany Young first bonded over their love of comic books. For the past year and a half, they have brought Rocky Mount together with Arkham Comix. Now they want to do the same for Wilson.
“It’s not the store that Bill and Tiffany built,” says Bill Young. “It’s the store the community built.” That has been the guiding philosophy of Arkham Comix in Rocky Mount since it opened in January 2016. Husband and wife Bill and Tiffany Young wanted to create a place where people didn’t just shop, but could feel like they are part of a something.
A Space of her Own
Creating that environment was especially important to Tiffany Young. She grew up in a strict household and her parents had expectations of how girls should act that Tiffany didn’t always meet. “I was a tomboy. I wanted to climb trees. I wanted to read comic books like my older brother. That wasn’t allowed. Comics were for boys.” One day, after her brother moved out to join the military, she snuck into his old bedroom. She found his collection of comic books he had left behind. The classic 1980s issues of Spiderman and X-Men were exactly the escape she needed. But even as an adult, she still didn’t always feel like she belonged in that space. “As a woman, I didn’t always feel welcome in some comic shops,” said Tiffany. “I don’t want anyone to feel that way in my store.” Tiffany takes great pride in making the store female-friendly. “I’ve had so many women come in and see me and ask me where to start. I’m glad I can make this accessible to them.” She is also excited to see the role of women in the industry changing as a whole. “Women can be the heroes now, not just Lois Lane in need of rescuing.”
A Dream Becomes Reality
Meanwhile, Bill was working in corporate retail when he met Tiffany on the job 12 years ago. “We connected immediately on comics,” said Bill. “We went to conventions, comic shops, toy hunting, movies. It’s all we did.” The two always talked about one day opening a store of their own, but thought it was a dream for retirement. Then they met Alan GIll, owner of Ultimate Comics in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill and NC ComicCon. They say he helped inspire them to finally make their dream a reality. “We don’t see it as a competition,” said Bill. “It’s a collaboration.” As they set out to find a location for their store, they began looking at retail space in the Triangle, but it didn’t feel right. “We would come back to Rocky Mount and see so much potential,” said Tiffany. “We noticed little things like a nerdy bumper sticker, or a T-shirt. We talked to people in the bookstore and Gamestop who wanted something like this in the area.”
Arkham Comix in Rocky Mount has since become more than just a store. It’s a place where people come together. “Our customers are every age from 8 to 80,” said Bill. “People of every religious, political, and economic background come in and forget about their differences while bonding over comics. That’s the coolest part to me.”
Commitment to Community
Bill and Tiffany’s commitment to their community goes far beyond simply being located in Rocky Mount. Arkham Comics holds community events for the whole family several times every month, often for free. Bill credits his extensive corporate experience with preparing him for being a business owner today. “Some people just know comic books and decide to open up a store. It doesn’t work like that,” said Bill. He knows understanding and managing the store’s finances are key to success.
Takes Money to Make Money
Although the couple keeps a close eye on their expenses, they also say they aren’t afraid to spend money to make money. “Sometimes we’re satisfied to break even on events,” said Bill. “If someone brings his kid to meet Batman and gets a picture to keep, and a free comic book, that’s something he will remember. You’ll have a customer for life.”
Arkham Comix also makes their events a community effort by collaborating with other local businesses. Recently, the shop reached out to the owner of an old unused movie theater to use the space for a movie night. Beer was provided by a local brewery. Pizza came from a nearby small pizza shop. “If we go out to dinner, we don’t go to Raleigh, we stay in town. We talk to people while we’re out,” said Tiffany. Whenever they visit another local business, they make it a point to shake hands with the owner if possible. They also leave online reviews, or reach out via social media. They have developed an ever-growing group of local business owners who work together to help each other. “We have different industries, but we’re all the same in that we are forward-thinking, big dreamers who all want to change how people look at the community,” said Bill.
Now that vision is leading Bill and Tiffany to open a second, 3,300 square feet, Arkham Comix location in Wilson. “Of course it’s always scary starting something new,” said Tiffany. “But you can only grow by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.” Tiffany says she learned this lesson on the Rocky Mount location’s opening day. “Being outgoing doesn’t come naturally for me. Nobody who knows me would believe I could be a face for the store and talk to hundreds of people. But I did it and I can do this too.” Tiffany says, as cliche as it has become, you should do something every day that scares you. “You can’t grow the business without growing yourself.”
Padgett’s 3 Wise Questions:
- If you could bake a success pie, what would the ingredients be? “Be present, always be willing to learn and change, don’t lose sight of who you are.”
- If you had one more hour in each day, how would you spend it? “Definitely with our 11-year-old son. Either that or taking a nap!”
- If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why? “Carl Sagan. We’re fascinated with science and he was revolutionary.”