Allegan County News & Union Enterprise

Comic book store latest business to open in downtown

By Leslie Ballard

“Awesome! Can’t wait for it to open up!” and “Yes!!! Yes!! Yes!!!” are just some of the enthusiastic reactions to the Facebook announcement about Tardy’s Underground Comics & Collectibles opening its doors at 228 1/2 Trowbridge Street in Allegan on Friday, January 14th.
This will be the second location for Tardy’s Collector’s Corner in Grand Rapids. Owners Gavin and Deanna Willard are excited at opening the Allegan store. “I just always felt there was a space for us in Allegan with the movie theater, the arcade, the antique show. Allegan is central for those who don’t want to make the drive to Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo,” Gavin Willard explained.
He said that their goal in the Grand Rapids and Allegan stores is to maintain an old-fashioned comic book store feel with unique, weird and older items as well as current books and collectibles. The Grand Rapids store “feels like you walked into a shop from the 70’s or 80’s,” he said, “and we want that vibe in Allegan.”
While they are planning some surprises for the opening, Allegan manager Kort Johnson says they will have various attractions, including the Street Chef Shaw food truck, which features “African-inspired tacos that are out of this world,” said Willard. In anticipation of the opening, they have been conducting $25 gift certificate give aways on Instagram and Facebook for the last month. More free giveaways will take place on site that day. Hours are 11 – 7:30.
The Willards began talking about opening a store in Allegan right after the first Covid shutdown and approached Johnson to manage it. His four sons and “a childhood dream of having a comic ship” convinced Johnson to accept the offer. The Trowbridge location is a “perfect space,” and Willard plans to have a large stock of comic books, and collectibles such as action figures, posters, prints, pins and more. “We’ll be carrying stuff back to the 50’s and 60”s up til now,” he added.
They also plan to host events such as signings and guest appearances in Allegan as well as Grand Rapids. Jason David Franks, who played Tommy Oliver in the Power Rangers was a recent guest at the Grand Rapids store. The Allegan Tardy’s will also participate in Free Comic Book Day, a massive national giveaway on the first Saturday in May.
The Willards, both graduates of Bloomingdale High School, bought Tardy’s Collector’s Corner from the original owners in 2015. Tardy’s, which has been in business since 1979, also has an online and ebay presence, and the store boasts many customers from Detroit, Chicago and Indianapolis among other areas. Willard has been into comic books since he was a child and is “extremely passionate about comics and the business.”
“What customers ask for changes from day to day,” observed Willard, and sometimes TV shows or movies will spark a new trend. While Spiderman and Batman are usually the most asked for items. Willard said that he also gets requests for Aliens, Predator, Robocop and Terminator and even Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. “You never know what people will want.”
He recalls selling a collection for a customer that included several gems including the first appearance of Spiderman. However, Batman #1 drew the most money, $100,000, despite being a lower grade copy. While that comic book was not the first appearance of Batman, that honor belongs to Detective Comics #27, it is the first time the gallery of Batman’s nemeses such as the Joker and Catwoman appeared.
While Covid delayed the Allegan opening, it also continues to present problems. “Companies are prioritizing their printing jobs, so books are sometimes 3-4 weeks late arriving,” Willard said. He also noted that it is hard to get items such as protective covers and that freight costs have become “brutal.”
Johnson, an Allegan native, is excited about the opportunity to open the Allegan store and thinks “it’s great for the area.” Like Willard, he loves comics and was a customer at the Grand Rapids for over 28 years before beginning to work there in 2020 in preparation for his new position.
Tardy’s Underground, so named because the store is located in the lower level of the building, will be open Tues. 2- 7:30, W-F 11 – 7:30 and Sat. 11-5. The store will be closed Sun – Mon.
“Allegan’s a cool little town where a comic book store would thrive,” explained Gavin Willard. “We’re going to do our best to keep the shop fresh and interesting, constantly energized.”

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