Comics shop to celebrate 10 years of community

They say the first six months to a year will determine whether your business will succeed or fail. Manifest Comics is one of those small businesses in Bayonne that has been nurturing a community since it opened in 2012 and is now celebrating its 10th anniversary on Saturday November 12th.

Manifest Comics didn’t have the easiest opening when it arrived in Bayonne. Hudson County had just been hit by Hurricane Sandy, but the store was able to open on time despite nature’s best efforts.

“Obviously you can’t control something like Sandy, and we had to deal with the lack of electricity when we were trying to fix the place, dealing with late deliveries and not having a computer when we opened” , says Mike Chen, the owner of Manifest Comics.

Manifest first opened in a space above Senerchia Meat & Deli between 34th and 33rd Streets at Broadway. Moving to a bigger space and having more retail space has always been an idea that Chen has remained open to. Eventually, the opportunity presented itself when a spot opened up just around the corner on 34th Street.

Seizing the opportunity, Manifest moved one block from its original location in 2016 to where it has now been in business for six years at 766 Broadway #3.

Even after a successful move and continuing to do business, another obstacle would soon arise and wreak havoc on small businesses around the world: the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No one could have foreseen the impact that COVID would have and still has on our society,” he says. “It was a scary situation when the government ordered the closure of all these little brick and mortar stores.”

During this time of uncertainty, Chen remained productive by setting up an online store for the boutique and beginning deliveries while working with schools in Bayonne to have comic books distributed with the free lunches that were given out.

“We were just doing things to bring the books into the community, support the students, and I’m really glad we were able to do that,” Chen says. “We did what we could to get the comics into the hands of fans and customers when they couldn’t come to the store like Facebook Live Sales. Basically anything to keep the store afloat and pay the rent.

Chen wasn’t the only one to steer this ship. After a few years in business, he hired some help to run the store. David Acosta, who began handling weekend chores, is now store manager, a position he has held for a year. Acosta was already a customer of the store before taking the job.

“As a fan of the medium, I thought it would be great to work in a comic book store,” says Acosta. “I responded to an online ad that Mike posted and got the job. After a few years of only working weekends, I started getting more days, and then came the time when he asked me if I wanted to take on more responsibilities here.

Over the years working at Manifest, Acosta learned the ins and outs of the business, but he also got to know the clientele. During the pandemic, he was even busy delivering comics to customers who started using the online store when stores were forced to close.

“It’s great to learn about the clientele, what people’s tastes are, and maybe even give them a recommendation,” says Acosta. “To see them come back two weeks later and talk about all the things they liked is awesome and they’ll start looking for stuff from the same writer or the same artist. In this hobby, finding out what people like, making recommendations and reading cool stuff is the best part of the job.

The store continues to sell some titles such as “Batman” and “Spider-Man”, while there has also been an increase for other characters such as “Moon Knight” and “Nightwing”. Event books like “Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths” or the recently completed “AXE Judgment Day” featuring the Avengers, X-Men, and Eternals also continue to top their bestseller list.

For their 10th anniversary, Manifest will open at 11 a.m. with door knocking and everything in the shop will be 10% off. Plus, the more customers spend, the more free items they’ll get, whether it’s a pin, magnet, shirt, or hat. Cupcakes will also be served.

Daniel K. Denny