Q&A with Steve Fodale and Nick Yribar, co-owner and manager of Vault of Midnight.
Vault of Midnight's original location opened in 1996 in Ann Arbor. On Sept. 17, you brought a store to downtown Grand Rapids. When did you decide you wanted to expand?
Nick: Seriously, about a year ago.
Steve: We were talking about it longer than that, but we got serious about a year ago.
Why did you pick Grand Rapids?
Steve: We liked the city a lot. It's really on the rise ... it seems to be a lot of fun. And it's similar to Ann Arbor in a lot of ways even though it's different in a lot of ways.
Do you split your time between both locations?
Nick: Since we opened, we've been out here pretty much full time. We have a sweet little bachelor pad that we share with the other owner, Curtis.
When did you realize it was time to expand?
Steve: Well, it's easy to get complacent and we didn't want to do that. ... Our store is unique in the comic industry and the public receives it well. We think we can do more with it and it's going to be a slow process of finding the right city and places where we want to be.
Nick: We don't want to expand for the sake of expanding. We definitely do want to leave our mark on the industry.
What are the differences between the two stores?
Nick: We landed here with a whole new setup. We don't have as much room as we have in the Ann Arbor shop.
Steve: The main thing is, being able to do gaming in the store. We're able to do that in Ann Arbor, but we're not able to do that here, so we're hoping to do satellite events.
What are those?
Nick: We can hopefully go to local cafes or local bars and do our events there instead of in the shop; spread our roots out a little bit.
So you plan on doing those soon?
Nick: That's in the works right now.
What kind of trends have you seen come and go over the years?
Nick: It sounds really cheesy, but we really are in a golden age of this kind of stuff right now. The material is better than when I started reading comic books. It's approachable for all sorts of people of all different walks.
Now, it's no longer unpopular to be into comic books.
Nick: Curtis likes to say that everybody's a nerd about something: you're a nerd about football, you're a nerd about knitting, fine dining. Everybody's a nerd in some ways. And within the past few years, the distinctions about what you're nerdy about, that's really starting to melt away.
What's a big seller right now?
Nick: It's sci-fi/fantasy book about this couple who just had a baby. They're on the run ... they're not allowed to be together. It's absolutely brilliant and we just blow through it every time we get it in the store.
What are you reading right now?
Steve: I still like the classic stuff like The Lone Ranger and Conan, but I like a little sampling of everything. Curtis, on the other hand, tries to read everything possible.
What is a good gateway comic book?
Nick: Bone, which is an all ages story. ... You can give that to an adult, you can give it to a kid who is just starting to read. It's a good story for everybody.
A lot of people have opinions on whether to call something a 'comic book' or a 'graphic novel.' What are your opinions on those titles?
Nick: We have strong opinions on that. They're all comic books. I think you'd call something a graphic novel that was originally released in the form of a book. But it's all under the medium of comic books.
What would you like to see for the comic book genre going forward?
Steve: For people to keep putting out new and incredible material.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Lindsay Patton-Carson. Photo: Fussy McBrumpants