OSWEGO — Arlene Spizman learned her Ecclesiastes.
“There is a time for everything, and a time for everything under heaven.”
His comic book store is closing. She is retiring after 27 years in a business she came to almost as an afterthought, a side hustle that has become the main event, in a historic building in the east end of town, which has created its own history now over generations.
“I’m getting older. I have grandchildren on the West Coast and I don’t want to be limited in my ability to go and visit them,” she said of her decision to close.
“With retail sales being what they are these days, it’s time.
“I think if you talked to someone who works in retail, they would say, ‘yes, sure’, everyone is shopping online these days. It’s like that now. ” Things change.
But she feels people are reading comics as much as they ever have. “The industry is still strong. This is not a problem.
“I accomplished what I wanted to do here in Oswego with my shop,” she said. “I gave people a cool alternative store they could go to, and I have a lot of great memories, and I made a lot of great friends. I feel like I raised a generation of kids . It’s time.”
She has become a huge comic book fan over the years. “I wasn’t when I opened the store, but I am now. I was selling antiques, and I was getting a lot of comics from houses that way, and people were just coming for the comics and buying them, and it was a good time to get into the industry because (SPOILER ALERT) Superman had just died, and I decided to try this for a while. And it was very successful, and I’m very happy with it.
Although most of what she sells today are modern comics, “we have thousands and thousands of old comics,” she said. “We have about 20 binders full of them and boxes. I have been in this field for 27 years. I’ve accumulated quite a bit. We are a viable store. Let’s hope people come to see us before we leave.
And then there is the building. Built in the 1870s from that iconic old red brick of that era, this was Oswego’s original Eastside Fire Hall at 112 E. Bridge St., corner of East Sixth. Arlene and her husband have owned the building for 35 years.
“We bought it in 1985, she says, and we took great care of it. It’s a great building. The city had it up for auction when they (the firefighters) moved to the new fire station near what used to be Price Chopper. A lot of people still come to tell us how they came here when they were kids, or how their parents worked here, or whatever.
“Whatever” might be the exact word for it, as she tells a bit of a story she had just heard.
“The people of Oswego are very aware of the city’s history,” she began. “I actually had lunch with my book club yesterday, and one of the girls said in the 1966 Blizzard, her grandmother died during that time, and they lived up the hill , and rather than keep his body at home, they put him on a slide and brought him here to the fire station to stay there until they could take him to a funeral home.
A time for each goal.
Arlene’s first thoughts were to sell off her massive inventory of comics, action figures, games, roleplaying games and paperbacks over a few months and then close the store. But since news of its impending closure Arlene has received a number of inquiries about selling the entire business to people who would keep it going.
“He has a special place in a lot of people’s hearts, I guess, which is overwhelming to me. It’s flattering,” she said.
The closing, she said, “is very bittersweet, it’s true. I love it. I met great people, I made a lot of good friends. I feel like I’ve raised a lot of kids, but it’s my time. My first clients bring their children now.
“I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to do. I wanted to provide a haven for people who think differently and don’t follow trends, just a place where people can get together and chat and talk and chat about pop culture.
Arlene Spizman is a wise woman with a ready laugh and a beautiful smile who even understands the deep meanings of comics. She may have internalized Ecclesiastes, but she also learned some of the great lessons of pop culture superheroes. And she intends to pass it on.
As she said in her farewell essay sent to many people and posted on her store’s Facebook page, “Many of you who know me know that I have a 4-year-old granddaughter who lives on the west coast. In June, I will be Grammy again. I have to be able to spend time with these little ones to teach them how responsible Wonder Woman is, how cooperative Superman is and what a good citizen Batman is.
Oswego has been very fortunate to know Arlene Spizman and The Comic Shop over the past 27 years, and it’s only fitting that her grandchildren will also experience that good fortune. It’s time.