Free comic books

Jarrod Greer, owner of The Inner Geek, poses in front of the wall of comic books at his Town Center store.

As the coronavirus spiraled into pandemic proportions, cancellations of public events began to spread. Like so many brightly colored lights on a Christmas tree, events began to dim and then flicker out one by one. Plans made months in advance quickly became irrelevant.

Schools closed, and then restaurants saw their business fade to a memory before they too closed their dining areas to the public. Then the layoffs began, with displaced workers wondering if they would ever be called back to work; in some extreme cases the work itself went away as smaller businesses shuttered their doors for the foreseeable future.

The worries began for business owners when words like “quarantine” and “contagious” flashed frequently across television screens or were printed in bold type on magazines and newspapers. And those worries began to grow exponentially with every suddenly closed door or missing service. Soon, everyone knew what was coming. It was inevitable as more and more people became sick that the country was going to have to take drastic measures. There was going to be a reduction — with a looming near-complete shutdown — of most if not all businesses except essential services.  

Larger companies were better equipped to weather the storm of silence as customers (understandably so) tried to hunker down and ride it out. Some strengthened their online models to offset the absence of commerce, but even this was a temporary measure. And the smaller businesses went into survival mode and attempted to crunch numbers to keep themselves and their employees afloat. Most could survive a week; but two? Three or more? Only the future will tell.

Small business owners Jarrod and Jaime Greer began to feel the crunch weeks ago. The Greers own The Inner Geek stores in Huntington and two stores in Kentucky (Ashland and Lexington). They have spent years growing their brand, and each year they put on the popular Lexington Comic and Toy Convention in downtown Lexington. This year was supposed to be another year of growth as more and more people from around the country and celebrities from around the world filled the Convention Center for four days. Thousands of people were scheduled to be there ... and now local authorities recommend social distancing and groups of 10 or fewer.

Jarrod Greer understands the need for the precautions. In fact, the local business owner said he and his wife struggled with the need to shut the convention down even before collegiate basketball was canceled.

“I wanted to give everyone what I promised them,” Greer said. “But I didn’t want anyone to get sick, and we discussed what would be the best course of action for weeks.”

In the end, the Greers rescheduled the event for May, hoping the pandemic would have passed by then. But rescheduling an event that has been planned months ahead was no mean feat in itself.

“It affects everyone,” Jarrod Greer said. “In my case it’s kind of top down. It’s me, every vendor in my show, every contractor, the hotels, and the Convention Center itself. I talked to the hotels, and they are going to lose a couple of million dollars over the next few months. And the Convention Center is kind of in the same spot.”

Greer said people have a tendency to think of his convention as a bigger business, and the hotels and the Convention Center as well.

“But none of us are what you would call a huge business,” Greer said. “And everyone has to answer to an operation budget. Something like this is hard on all of us.”

The convention itself, which was scheduled to run March 26-29, is now a non-starter. Much of the money Greer invested in advertising and transportation and other logistics has already been spent — and nearly the same amount will need to be spent to advertise the rescheduled dates of May 14-16. This will prove more than challenging when business in the stores decrease due to people self-quarantining. Greer said he understands the need for safety, but it is crunching his numbers down like a vise being slowly turned.

“We were three weeks from the convention,” Greer said. “Most of the hard work was done, the bills were paid, and everything was on the way to happening. I was trying to be the holdout, and saying ‘The show must go on.’ In fact, the day before I canceled, I was saying on Facebook that we were still on. But so much can happen in 24 hours. Ultimately, you have to be concerned about the safety of the public and the safety of your people. And you have to do that, no matter what it costs.”

The encouraging part of it all, Greer said, was that the hotel and the venue have been great about helping him reschedule for the new date.

“Obviously we don’t know what things are going to be like in 60 days,” Greer said. “But we have to hope in that much time things will be resolved, or at least we will know a lot more than we do now. “

Greer said that he has been able to reschedule most of the celebrities who were scheduled for March to the new date. He and his staff are working in the meantime to reassure people who have bought tickets that their tickets will still be good on the new date. He continuously posts updates and answers questions about the in-flux convention through the LCTC Facebook Page and the convention website. “We are going to make the new date happen,” Greer said.

The recent closure of all nonessesntial businesses implemented by state government is yet another squall in the storm the Greers — and small businesses across the area and the nation — are being forced to weather. Beginning Wednesday (on Wednesdays only) at their Ashland store, they will be offering curbside pickup for customer pull lists from 12 to 6 p.m. Call (606) 420-4066. The store is closed to the public until the ban is lifted, but going forward Greer said they will be continuing to list items in their eBay store for shipping. The eBay username is theinnergeek. Visit innergeek.tcgplayerpro.com or The Inner Geek Facebook page for more information.

(606) 326-2655 |

cromans@dailyindependent.com

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