Ariell Johnson might be seen as an anomaly to some but hopefully, her new venture becomes the norm versus a rare exception. According to a recent report, Ms. Johnson’s Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse is the first Black woman-owned comic book store to open on the East Coast.
Although Philadelphia has a rich tradition of quality comic-book shops – and could brag that Showcase Comics on South Street was the largest black-owned comic shop in the United States for quite some time – Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse will be the first black female-owned comic book shop to open its doors on the East Coast.
This “geeky” hybrid hopes to contribute to the burgeoning Kensington section of Philadelphia. Amalgam hopes to build community around comics, coffee, and relaxing with friends, and also through hosting geeky and diversity-themed workshops, movie/TV screenings, book signings, and BYOB nights.
“I got the idea for the shop about 12 years ago, when I was still attending Temple University,” said Amalgam’s owner, Ariell R. Johnson. “My favorite coffee shop was directly across the street from my comic book store of choice. So, each Friday, I would buy my books at Fat Jack’s, go across the street to Crimson Moon, and read everything I bought.
“I just loved the vibe of the coffee shop . . . and I loved being able to indulge my comic-book obsession in a comfortable environment that wasn’t my house,” Johnson continued. “When the coffee shop closed its doors, I was devastated. That’s when the idea came to me.”
Johnson said she will balance being a traditional store while highlighting diversity.
“We will be a legit store, so expect to see the heavy hitters that we all know and love,” she said. “But in addition to those usual suspects, we want to showcase diverse comics, creators, and characters. We think that comics are for everyone and anyone that loves comics-women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. We will actively look to stock titles that showcase people in these groups, right long with Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Thor.”
A quick search online and the black hole of information that is Reddit seems to suggest that Johnson’s shop isn’t the first of its kind as some outlets have reported.
Still, it has been difficult to determine who the real trailblazer of the idea is but it doesn’t truly matter. If you’re in Philadelphia any time soon and like comics and coffee, you know have a spot to get your needs met.
Check out Amalgam’s Facebook page here.