- Joe Einhorn opened Loot, a kid-friendly comic book store, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Carroll Gardens in July.
- The store makes most of its money from memberships; for $30 a month, kids can rent an unlimited number of comics, one at a time, from the store’s collection of 5,000.
- Einhorn said he wanted to open a comic store that would get young people off screens, something he said traditional comic shops struggle to do.
- Kids can also hang out and read and take comic-drawing art classes in the store, which took inspiration from the massively popular video game “Fortnite.”
- Children’s comics have surpassed superhero comics as the highest-selling genre in the comic industry, but Loot’s collection is mostly superhero comics. Einhorn wants to introduce the genre to readers at a young age.
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The first thing you realize when you enter Loot — a kid-focused comic shop that opened in July in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Carroll Gardens — is that this is not your traditional comic-book store.
Instead of giant posters and shelves that are common in conventional stores, Loot sleekly displays its comics in rows along bright, white walls. Action figures are confined to a single glass case. There are no electronics visible.
“It’s a clubhouse environment,” Joe Einhorn, the store’s owner, told Business Insider.
Loot, located at 463 Court Street in Brooklyn, doesn’t allow adults unless they’re accompanied by a child. The store primarily relies on monthly memberships. For $30 a month, kids can rent out an unlimited amount of comics (as long as it’s one at a time) from the store’s library of 5,000, which is comprised of Einhorn’s own collection and donations.
Kids get a superhero-inspired trading card with their name on it as their “membership card.” When a comic leaves the store, a plastic jacket is put on it with a library card that indicates the date it was rented and the condition. Einhorn uses a journal to keep track.
Einhorn wouldn’t disclose how many memberships the store has sold, but said that sponsorships have resulted in 100 memberships for local children.
The minimalist approach is by design. Einhorn, who is 38 and has three kids of his own, said he wanted to open Loot for nostalgic reasons because comic shops were important to his development and he wanted the neighborhood to have one. But he also called it a reaction to the way that kids are spending their time now.
“We’re looking for ways to engage young people in reading and writing besides playing with screens,” he said.
‘Fortnite’ is a hit with young people — so Loot borrowed from it
Still, when conceiving of Loot, Einhorn drew inspiration from the wildly popular online video game “Fortnite,” which has over 250 million registered accounts.
In the game, resources such as weapons and ammunition are called “loot,” which is not only the name of the store but of the store’s rewards system (kids can gain points by renting comics and use those points at the pizzeria below the store).
Einhorn is hoping to capture what makes video games like “Fortnite” so habitual with comic books, and that doesn’t involve just reading them. Kids can read comics in the store at their leisure and also draw their own with the help of Loot’s staff members who give art classes.
“Games like ‘Fortnite’ have existed for a very long time, but none of them broke through in the way ‘Fortnite’ has,” Einhorn said. “There’s a component of collaboration.”
Children’s comics are dominating the comic industry
Children’s comics surpassed superhero comics as the biggest genre in the comic industry this year, industry website ICv2 revealed at a conference last month. The popularity of children’s comics has helped make book stores and online retailers the biggest channel for comic-book sales in North America, passing traditional comic shops, according to ICv2.
Comic shops have needed to adapt to survive. Some are buying from book publishers like Penguin Random House, ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp told Business Insider last month.
Most of Loot’s collection is superhero comics, not children’s comics. Einhorn said that’s because superhero movies dominate pop culture, and he wants to give children the broader context.
But he still thinks his model can offer a lesson to traditional comic shops that are trying to compete with book stores and online retailers.
Einhorn thinks one of the biggest reasons kids aren’t attracted to comic stores is that they can’t fully engage with the material. He thinks his library-like model, where kids can borrow comics, hang out, and draw their own, could work for traditional comic shops, too.
And he’s only just begun.
Loot is holding a contest where kids can design their own superhero, and animator and sculptor Steven Cartoccio will turn it into an action figure. Applicants must be under 18 years old and turn in their designs, including details of the character’s appearance and superpowers, in person at Loot. A winner will be selected on December 2.
Einhorn said he wished a place like Loot existed when he was growing up. Now, he can introduce a medium he loves to kids in his neighborhood — and maybe beyond.
Loot is open seven days a week, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. It can be contacted on Instagram via direct message at @loot.
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