Jupiter Comics brings superheroes to the suburbs

Brothers Josh and Zack Bicknell opened Jupiter Comics in Collierville in 2014 to fill a need for fans to find comics closer to their suburban homes.
Josh and Zack Bicknell saw a business need for the eastern reaches of the Memphis metro area and in early 2014 decided to take a leap.
 
Growing up a comic book fan in Fayette County, Zack had to make a 45-minute trek into East Memphis to get his weekly fix. He saw a huge market in the eastern suburbs and convinced his brother, Josh, to join him in opening Jupiter Comics at 563 W. Poplar Ave. in Collierville.
 
They decided on Collierville because it’s a central location to serve that suburban community as well as Germantown, Cordova, North Mississippi and Fayette County.
 
“Yeah, growing up in Fayette County there weren’t any places out there,” Zack said. “We have a lot of kids who have the same situation I had.”
 
While there are a few other comic book stores in the Memphis area, Josh said there isn’t too much competition because of the geographic focus of Jupiter Comics.
 
“People in Memphis go to Memphis stores but people in Collierville and Germantown, Fayette County they don’t want to drive to Memphis,” Josh said. “We also focus more on young kids with the atmosphere and parties.”

A sample of Jupiter Comics' selectionThe store’s inventory is mostly new issues. To supplement the store’s small collection of old issues, they have a collector come in once a month to sell back issues. He usually brings in 15 to 20 boxes of what Josh estimates is probably a 500,000-plus issue collection.
 
Comics is mostly a guessing game. The distributor is located in Olive Branch, and the store must place orders two months in advance.
 
“One month you sell 20 copies. The next month it’s five,” Zack said. “A lot of it is guessing but after a year or two we’re figuring out where the trends go.”
 
Being in Collierville, Zack said there are more families who come in to Jupiter Comics compared to the shops in the denser areas of Memphis.
 
Jupiter Comics sets itself apart with other offerings. The store has a gaming room for anyone to come play video games or other games of interest. They offer birthday parties which can include superhero appearances.
 
A small café gives customers an opportunity to take their time browsing the shelves or hanging out in the game room.
 
“A lot of comic shops have food with comics so if you’re gaming one night you just walk out the door of the game room and order food,” Zack said. “We thought it would be worth it.”
 
The store’s theater screen and projector are used for regular viewings of superhero television or, most recently, episodes of “The Walking Dead”.

January progress at Jupiter Comics' second location.By summer 2017, the Bicknell brothers plan to open a second location on about 18 acres along Tenn. Highway 57 just east of Rossville. The 4,000-square-foot building will provide more space for a comic book store, full restaurant, three party rooms, an arcade and outside miniature golf.
 
The brothers bought the Fayette County property a year ago with a seasonal Halloween business in mind.
 
“For several years we’ve wanted to get into the haunted house business,” Zack said. “We spend a week every year going to elaborate haunted houses. We found a good piece of property. It was going to be a haunted house and corn maze but with a building already on the property we decided to go big on it.”
 
The store will have more of a focus on graphic novels, games, statues and figurines. It will keep the Jupiter Comics name.
 
The restaurant will have a separate name, which still is in the works. It will serve items that will include burgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes and ice cream, which is basically an expanded version of the café at the Collierville store.
 
Josh and Zack are the only employees of a store that is open seven days a week. But various friends and family help out from time to time. They will hire additional employees to help run the Fayette County expansion.
 
The brothers learned their business chops from their father who operates cabins and a real estate company in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. But while he taught them the basics of running a company, they just dove in and figured out the comics industry as they went along. It wasn’t easy.
 
“When it comes to buying comics it’s hard,” Josh said. “You buy two months in advance. You can order when it comes out but it’s hard. You have to guess how many you think you’ll sell in the future. You might have too much. That’s why we have $1 bins.”

Read more articles by Lance Wiedower.

Lance is a veteran journalist with more than 16 years of experience in newsrooms in the Memphis area as a reporter and editor, including most recently as managing editor of The Daily News. He regularly contributes to The Daily News, including a biweekly travel column, The Daily Traveler. 
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