Ann Arbor's Vault of Midnight store earns national comic book retailer recognition
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
International retailers competed to earn the comic book industry’s equivalent of an Academy Award, but the winner was a downtown Ann Arbor retailer.
The award honors one store per year for supporting its community and the comic industry.
Winning is an honor for a small store in a Midwest college town, co-owner Curtis Sullivan said. Competition was intense and it reflected major retail markets.
“We’re the first and only store in Michigan to win,” he said.
The award might be described as an Academy Award for the comic book industry, awarded to a store where the owners “have a genuine love and enthusiasm for the whole (comic book) medium,” Sullivan said.
The nomination came in part from the store, which produced a 5-minute DVD on its 15-year history, and local writer Jim Ottaviani. Sullivan described the nomination as a “book report” on the store.
“It’s just really exciting,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t think we’d win It was our first year with a nomination.”
While he wasn’t at the convention, Sullivan was watching blog reports from the event late Friday with his wife, Elizabeth. Their two kids, Dana and Kiley, tried to stay up, too, but fell asleep before the announcement came through.
Winners of the award, Sullivan said, embody what he called the “gospel of comics,” respecting them as a body of work and not just a niche or genre. Some trends are reflected, but the inventory runs the gamut of comic books, he said.
“We’re a bookstore that just happens to sell comic books,” Sullivan said.
Vault of Midnight has been located at 219 S. Main St. - just north of East Liberty Street - for about 5 years, Sullivan said, and it’s existed in Ann Arbor for about 15 years. It stocks merchandise that includes the latest publications as well as issues dating back to the 1950s.
It’s also one of downtown Ann Arbor’s destination retailers, with the bulk of its business coming from foot traffic through the store. Sullivan said about 5 percent of sales come from direct mail customers, with very few resulting from online sources.
The store has five employees - including co-owner Steve Fodale - and Sullivan has considered opening a second store in Michigan.
“We’ve been thinking about that for a while,” he said.
But its commitment to Ann Arbor remains firm, Sullivan added. The 30-year comic book reader said he’s proud to have a store valued by both customers and the industry.
“I’m from Ann Arbor and growing up here, it had totally unique stores,” he said. “We wanted to be like that.”