Pam Farley: curator of comic book delivery service
Comics & Collectibles store owners Pam and Gene Farley started a comic subscription service in August
WHAM! KNOCK-KNOCK! PIT-A-PAT-A-PIT-A-PAT! CREEEAK! GASP! SNIP! WOOHOO! AH-CHOO!
You guessed it—that’s the sound of a special delivery, a child walking to the door, opening it slowly, discovering a package addressed to them, opening it and revealing a surprise, hand-picked selection of comic books! The child sneezes from excitement immediately.
This is Comic Crate, and it’s the newest endeavor of Pam and Gene Farley, who run the comic book shop Comics & Collectibles. For 20 years, they’ve owned the store on Fruitridge Road, and in August they launched the nationwide, curated subscription box service aimed at kids and new readers. Already, a number of teachers have signed up to share the comics with their students as encouragement and to pair with lesson planning. SN&R talked with Pam about the development—and where it may lead. Will Comic Crate help your reluctant reader get revved up on Rushdie? Can these curators’ choices charm children into chasing chapters of Chaucer? All this and more, in this exciting issue of 15 Minutes.
Can you tell me about the Comic Crate program?
We realized that comic book people know how to get their comics. They know what’s appropriate and how to read the rating system and things like that, but for busy parents who just want their kids to read and get off of the electronic devices, the idea of going to a special comic book store, trying to figure out what comics are appropriate or right for what reading level, it’s too much to ask for busy parents. They would just rather have the experts choose and have the comics show up. And what kid doesn’t love getting mail?
That was the idea, and as we were talking with friends who are teachers, they pointed out that comic books can really help kids who are having trouble with reading, because the pictures help you figure out the words and vice versa. That was when we realized we could expand the reach of our store and help a lot of kids get better at reading.
Did you start reading with comic books?
I read a little bit of comic books when I was a kid, but my husband was the one who’s been crazy about comics since he was, oh gosh, I don’t know, 8 or 9 years old maybe … He’s the expert on the different storylines, and with Stan Lee’s death, he was like, “Wow, it’s a sad day in the comic book world.”
Were your kids raised on comic books?
Yes, they were raised on comic books, and they’re sort of interested. It’s one of those things where if you’re around it all the time, it’s not exciting anymore. So they know all of the characters and things like that, but unfortunately, if they’re hiding under the covers to read at night, they’re not reading comic books like we were when we were little. They’re probably going to be reading one of the Harry Potter books or something.
Is this sort of an effort to make comic books more competitive with other forms of media?
Well, we chose to start it because it serves a specific need. We’re getting comics into the hands of kids with the goal of improving literacy … anyone can go online to [Marvel or DC] and order comics in the mail. That’s been around for a while, it’s not unusual or special—but because we’re helping busy parents, we’re taking our knowledge and our expertise about what comics are appropriate. … We have customers all over the country now, people who would have never come to our store, in Tennessee and Florida.
Do you personalize the boxes?
Every crate is different. … We’re actually picking and filling the individual boxes, and they’re different for every person. Sometimes two sisters will get their own boxes, and they don’t want the same thing, stuff like that.
Have you ever started projects like this before?
We have not. We’ve had the store, this year is the 20th year we’ve owned it. We do a lot of events in the store, you know, tournaments and events and music, but this was just a light bulb moment over the summer.
How are you getting the word out about Comic Crate?
So far it’s just been word-of-mouth.
That’s wild. Does the comic book community make that possible?
Actually, our goal here is to reach outside the comic book community, because that’s already established. … I know we’re starting to see more gift subscriptions these days. It’s a great way to show someone that you’re thinking about them.
How does this change feel, compared to when you were initially getting established?
Twenty years ago we just trying to stay in business, figure it out and learn as we go, and this just happened to be one of those [things where] all the ideas came together at the right time. I wouldn’t say it’s a change of our business, but it’s like an added branch of our business.
What excites you most about Comic Crate?
Being able to reach kids all over the country. They may not have a comic store nearby, or they just might not have an opportunity to get into reading with comics, and so it’s a great way to reach kids all over the country.