Hunting for quirky gifts for the obsessed comic fan or sci-fi/fantasy geek on your holiday gift list? Pegasus Books in downtown Bend is a nerd-tastic treasure house brimming with collector toys, comic books, Euro-style board games, sports cards, Japanese manga and graphic novels.
Owner Duncan McGeary seems to still be enjoying himself after more than thirty years in the funny book business, leaning against the counter beneath an Iron Man mask grinning from a shelf crammed with toys and figurines.
Packed into his thousand-square-foot printed emporium are more than 60,000 comics, 8,000 graphics novels and 7,000 new and used books with a couple hundred board games tossed in for good measure. It’s an impressive cornucopia of pop culture for any world-class city, let alone Bend, Oregon.
“I could use five times this much space,” he joked. “I try to be as creative as possible and carry as much product as I can because that’s what makes a successful store. It’s a lot of eye candy. People might not buy the candy but it puts them in the mood.”
Half of Pegasus’ sales are comic books and graphic novels, broken down to 65 percent comics and 35 percent graphic novels. Nearly all the comics are new, refreshed constantly, a seemingly Herculean task considering the crazy collage of so many comic titles and monthly books.
“Pegasus has been around Bend for 33 years, originally on Greenwood and moved to its current location in 1983,” he said. “I worked at the store in 1980 and bought the store from Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics, who went back to Portland. It started out as a comics and sci-fi store and it’s morphed into a whole pop culture shop but I’m trying hard to change it into what I consider an eclectic book store, including comics.”
The store is stuffed to the light fixture with Magic The Gathering cards, World of Warcraft toys, Star Wars and HALO figurines and shelves of books on zombies, vampires, space aliens, steampunk and familiar titles from the kaleidoscope of characters in the DC and Marvel comic realms.
With comic store reality shows like AMC’s Comic Book Men on TV and rare comics grabbing monster bids in luxury auction houses, what was once considered frivolous reading is knocking on the hallowed doors of fine art.
“I’m not into collector pricing because I’m in a downtown tourist zone and have unique enough material. Customers see I’ve made a lot of effort to carry all this stuff and they reward me by buying. I have a helluva selection of graphic novels, board games and anime and make a real effort to carry the best stuff. When you stock foreign comics or art comics, they may not sell fast but they have their own following and give the store a certain level of prestige.”
McGeary thinks the latest storm of superhero movies like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and Watchmen have given comics added credibility and kept them alive but it doesn’t automatically turn people into readers.
“About five years ago I had the idea to bring in more of the new wave of euro-style board games like Settler of Cataan and Ticket To Ride as a sort of gaming gateway drug and they really took off because I play them and love them. I do well with hip stuff that’s word of mouth. Once it’s turned into mass market retail then it cools off.”
To help keep the wheels on this wild wagon, McGeary has recruited and hired a cool, capable geek squad of Cameron Saunders, Matt Funk and Jasper Hedron for Pegasus Books.
“I have great guys that work for me and they truly love it,” he said. “They have great attitudes and they’re fresh and all into this stuff. They’re more cutting edge than I am and have a wider net online than I do.”
Manager Cameron Saunders has been with Pegasus for three years and is confident comics will continue to be the biggest focus for them.
“The greatest part of working here is the people,” he said. “My conversations with customers are sometimes the highlight of my day. The store isn’t exactly a hangout spot but it’s certainly a social experience. The holidays are a great opportunity to get kids to read. And for adults it’s really never too late. There are comics and stories out there for everyone.”
Cameron adds that board games make an excellent present and capitalize on team spirit and family togetherness inherent in the colder months.
Looking around the colorful room, McGeary believes he’s stayed in business because he made all the mistakes in the first twenty.
“My store is arranged in such a way that it matches the location I’m at very nicely. I’ve done better the past four or five years than my whole life. But I think I finally am at the point where I have the right mix of product and experience at a good location. Diversification is a big deal and it’s not easy to have five different product lines where you’re a credible supplier. If you have that diversity you have the flexibility to deal with whatever economic event happens and survive. It took me forever to get there.”
When asked how much longer he’ll be around, McGeary smiles.
“Well I have a new lease I’m about to sign that will push me another six and a half years so after that who knows. It’s still fun for me and who wants to sit at home when I can be surrounded by all this amazing stuff and meet interesting people. This is probably the easiest job in existence.”
Pegasus Books, 105 NW Minnesota Avenue, Bend, 541-388-4588.