January 16, 2015

Remembering the Past: Star Clipper Comics

When I moved to St Louis, I divided my time between two comics shops - one was a more fanboyish-oriented shop on Manchester Avenue, just a hop, skip and a jump from Skinker....and on the way home from work.

(For those countries using the metric system, a "hop, skip and a jump" translates into "a stone's throw"). But after awhile, when Star Clipper Comics moved into the Delmar Loop....I knew I had found my hangout. So much that I am deeply saddened to hear that they will be closing.

See, I lived about a mile away from the Delmar Loop - just on the other side of Skinker, that street that divided the sordid city from the up-and-coming county. (It's a St. Louis thing - kind of like the north side/south side rivalry in Chicago, but even more trivial). The Delmar Loop was bordered by Washington University, UMSL, and St Louis University, so it nestled in a comfy municipality named "University City"....and was the closest I would come to reliving the college-town vibe of Eugene, Oregon.

(Yes, I lived in Eugene, Oregon. It was a painful time. I'll blog about it one of these days).....

But Star Clipper, even amongst the highlights of the Tivoli (a grand, renovated old-school theater), the Pageant (a new-ish theater when I lived in St. Louis), Vintage Vinyl (my all-time favorite record store) and Blueberry Hill (where Chuck Berry would play a monthly show), Star Clipper had class. Besides being in the heart of the Delmar Loop, Star Clipper's interior was beautiful; white and wood, with "floppies" in racks along the wall; graphic novels organized in bookcases that would make Border's blush; and a plethora of related items (like t-shirts) in the back.

It was also one of the few places that had anime-flavored media that didn't come across as creepy or infantile. Their staff was courteous, their pull-file was immaculate, and quite honestly - it was a comic lover's dream. It was a place that I would encourage friends moving to St. Louis to check out. In a city where your high school was the ultimate social determinant, Star Clipper was a bastion of excellence in the midst of an already vibrant, lively community.

In fact, the last time I visited Star Clippers was my last visit to St. Louis (a yearly ritual interrupted by exacerbated unemployment). After seeing my friend Dave (with whom I stayed, and who is - at best - the bad influence I longed for), I went to the Loop and headed for my favorite haunts. At Star Clipper, I noticed several graphic novels on sale, and I went to the counter to pay.

Was I on their list?

I used to be, I replied. The clerk looked me up anyway.

I still counted, even though I ended my pull file before  the move back to Chicago. I still got my discount as a member....despite not purchasing comics there in awhile.

In a way, I regret the inability to return - oh, sure, repeated purchases might not have saved Star Clipper, but at the very least....I would have had the chance to say goodbye.

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