Fat Jack’s has been around for 46 years, but the pandemic has taken a toll on the Center City store.
Known as Philadelphia’s first comic store, Fat Jack’s opened its doors in 1976. Since then, the store at 2006 Samson St. has made it through multiple economic recessions, a change of the millennium, and a pandemic. But the effects of shutting down, inflation, and the increase in remote work are pushing the store to consider closing.
The years of losing business too online sellers and the rise of digital comics pushed many comic stores to close down. Fat Jack’s remained operating, as community members raise money to help them out of a 2019 economic downturn. But, right as stability seem to be in sight, the pandemic sent them into a six-month shutdown, marked by quarantine. Being an in-person store, sales plummeted.
“We’re in a terrible situation and we desperately need your help,” wrote Fat Jack’s manager, Eric Partridge, on the store’s official GoFundMe. According to Partridge, who has been managing the store for 28 years, most Center City clientele had settled into remote work and were no longer making their way into Philly — a reality that, per the 2022 Center City District report, the city continues to struggle with. Only 57% of foot traffic is back, compared with 2019 levels.
“We used to have about 222 to 250 people a week, but now we are down to about 180,” said store owner Mike Ferraro. Fat Jack’s subscription program has also been affected by this. Since it relies on comic lovers being able to set aside their favorite books to pick up at a later time, working from home meant that many readers had to cancel due to being unable to pick up their comics.
Seventy-one-year-old Ferrero looked for many alternatives to prevent the store from reaching this point, Partridge said, including filing for the Paycheck Protection Program — the federal business loan created during the pandemic to help small businesses keep their workforce — but funds ran out before they could receive help.
Now, they are running a GoFundMe in the hopes of raising $20,000 to cover the cost of product acquisition and catching up on bills. Though the total debt amounts to $80,000, “this will keep our head above water,” Partridge said. At the time of publication, $9,667 has been raised to help Fat Jack’s.
In the meantime, they are having a half-price sale of older comic back issues in store until the end of January, and doing a Sunday online sale through the broadcasting live website The Experience, at 4:30 p.m.. Local comic artists are showing their support this weekend, visiting the store to make drawings for customers, and selling their original artwork to raise funds. Check the Instagram account for announcements.