News

Owner of Lee's Comics pulls the plug after more than 37 years

Shelter-at-home order spells the end for Mountain View business

After serving comic book and graphic novel fans for more than 37 years, Lee Hester shut down Lee's Comics in Mountain View, the last of his eponymous brick-and-mortar stores, on March 17.

Hester said the stay-at-home order was the final blow to his storefront.

"This was an untenable situation," Hester said. "Sometimes you want to fight, and you realize that's a fight you can't win, so you're wiser to make a strategic withdrawal rather than fighting a fight there's no chance of you winning."

The Palo Alto native remembers the exact date he opened his store — July 1, 1982, when Lee's Comics was just a 700-square-feet space tucked behind a Lucky's supermarket in Palo Alto.

"It was very hard to see, and I had very few customers," Hester said.

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In 1987, he opened a second location in San Mateo. Three years later, he moved his Palo Alto store to a more prominent location in the city on El Camino Real, before settling down at the 4,000-square-feet building in 1020-F N. Rengstorff Ave. by the Mountain View Costco in 2000. Gradually, Lee's Comics grew into what Hester believes was the most comprehensive inventory of graphic novels and new comics in the Bay Area.

But an "economic crunch" from 1989 to 2000, causing a decrease in sales, forced Hester to reduce the Mountain View location's space. And in 2016, Hester closed his second store in San Mateo.

"We've been struggling," Hester said. "That's why we can't survive this curve."

After the countywide shutdown, Hester also learned Diamond Comic Distributors, the sole distributor of popular comics published by Marvel, DC and many others, were no longer shipping new issues due to concerns of COVID-19, further justifying Hester's fateful decision.

With his store closure, Hester laid off the few remaining staff members. To support local comic book stores and continue his legacy, Hester sold a portion of his store's inventory to Alan Bahr and Phil Schalefer, owners of Heroes & Champions comics store at 574 E. El Camino Real in Sunnyvale.

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"This is 38 years of work for me, and I didn't want it to just go, 'Poof,'" he said. "I feel like this work is going to be carried on, so that's the thing I'm happy about."

Hester will continue to sell comics through his eBay store.

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Owner of Lee's Comics pulls the plug after more than 37 years

Shelter-at-home order spells the end for Mountain View business

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 3:02 pm

After serving comic book and graphic novel fans for more than 37 years, Lee Hester shut down Lee's Comics in Mountain View, the last of his eponymous brick-and-mortar stores, on March 17.

Hester said the stay-at-home order was the final blow to his storefront.

"This was an untenable situation," Hester said. "Sometimes you want to fight, and you realize that's a fight you can't win, so you're wiser to make a strategic withdrawal rather than fighting a fight there's no chance of you winning."

The Palo Alto native remembers the exact date he opened his store — July 1, 1982, when Lee's Comics was just a 700-square-feet space tucked behind a Lucky's supermarket in Palo Alto.

"It was very hard to see, and I had very few customers," Hester said.

In 1987, he opened a second location in San Mateo. Three years later, he moved his Palo Alto store to a more prominent location in the city on El Camino Real, before settling down at the 4,000-square-feet building in 1020-F N. Rengstorff Ave. by the Mountain View Costco in 2000. Gradually, Lee's Comics grew into what Hester believes was the most comprehensive inventory of graphic novels and new comics in the Bay Area.

But an "economic crunch" from 1989 to 2000, causing a decrease in sales, forced Hester to reduce the Mountain View location's space. And in 2016, Hester closed his second store in San Mateo.

"We've been struggling," Hester said. "That's why we can't survive this curve."

After the countywide shutdown, Hester also learned Diamond Comic Distributors, the sole distributor of popular comics published by Marvel, DC and many others, were no longer shipping new issues due to concerns of COVID-19, further justifying Hester's fateful decision.

With his store closure, Hester laid off the few remaining staff members. To support local comic book stores and continue his legacy, Hester sold a portion of his store's inventory to Alan Bahr and Phil Schalefer, owners of Heroes & Champions comics store at 574 E. El Camino Real in Sunnyvale.

"This is 38 years of work for me, and I didn't want it to just go, 'Poof,'" he said. "I feel like this work is going to be carried on, so that's the thing I'm happy about."

Hester will continue to sell comics through his eBay store.

Comments

Marvel Comic Fan
Old Mountain View
on Mar 28, 2020 at 8:59 am
Marvel Comic Fan, Old Mountain View
on Mar 28, 2020 at 8:59 am
7 people like this

Why? This is not a threat for transmission based on available information.
"Diamond Comic Distributors, the sole distributor of popular comics published by Marvel, DC and many others, were no longer shipping new issues due to concerns of COVID-19"

Web Link

Well, I read their statement about it and I guess it shows how devastating the impact to our economy will be:

Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease.
Web Link


Bryan
Rengstorff Park
on Mar 28, 2020 at 10:39 am
Bryan, Rengstorff Park
on Mar 28, 2020 at 10:39 am
8 people like this

Truly sad, but unsurprising. With no new product coming in, there can be no sales revenue. And as long as he still has to pay rent, there was only one solution.

This will not be the only retail store you hear with these exact same circumstances. Rent + staff + insurance - revenue = closures everywhere you look.


MV Parent
Cuesta Park
on Mar 28, 2020 at 4:16 pm
MV Parent , Cuesta Park
on Mar 28, 2020 at 4:16 pm
8 people like this

Both my kids loved this store. They are still comic fans. Thanks Lee


Comic Fan
Rengstorff Park
on Mar 28, 2020 at 6:13 pm
Comic Fan, Rengstorff Park
on Mar 28, 2020 at 6:13 pm
6 people like this


It's unfortunate to have less comic book shops, especially since this particular area has so few.

One note, that this decision to close shop had nothing to do with the Diamond Comic Distribution stopping shipping, as Diamond announced that it was stopping shipping 5 days after Lee decided to shut down. Perhaps his spidey senses were tingling.

Either way, I wish Lee and all the patrons of his store(s) good tidings, and good reading wherever you next find your comics.


Sharon Levin
another community
on Mar 28, 2020 at 8:27 pm
Sharon Levin, another community
on Mar 28, 2020 at 8:27 pm
6 people like this

This is so heartbreaking. Going to Lee's Comics on the first and last day of Hebrew School every year is how I 'bribed' my daughter into going. They were always so helpful and knowledgeable. Lee's will be missed


Doug
another community
on Mar 29, 2020 at 7:34 am
Doug, another community
on Mar 29, 2020 at 7:34 am
6 people like this

God speed Lee. We have known eathother since second grade. You will persaverer. Bust of luck!

Doug


40 yrs in MV
Slater
on Mar 29, 2020 at 3:55 pm
40 yrs in MV, Slater
on Mar 29, 2020 at 3:55 pm
3 people like this

There's a rumor that clarks the burger joint off of castro is closing on the 31st.


Steven A.
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2020 at 11:52 pm
Steven A., Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2020 at 11:52 pm
3 people like this

It was a nice store, but ... foot traffic and a high rent versus selling online? It's a no-brainer. There is a much bigger market for it online. Stores going out of business now will have to retool and use the Web as their storefront.


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