By Joe Hadsall
Jason and Nathan Hurley have discovered that achieving a lifelong dream doesn’t mean that work is finished. Now that they have something they have always wanted, they are working harder than ever.
But don’t feel too badly for them. They love every minute of operating their new comic book store, Hurley’s Heroes.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” Jason said. “In seventh grade, I wrote a report on how to open a comic book store. I’ve been dreaming how to do this for the last 15 years, and my brother and I have worked hard at it for the last five.
“If I have to work at another job until this takes off, I’m going to do it.”
Jason, 28, also works at the Joplin Regional Airport as a security officer and maintenance worker. Nathan, 24, works customer service at Mid-Missouri Bank.
From those two 40-hour weekly shifts, the brothers crafted a set of operation hours for the new comic book store.
“It’s a little bit nerve-racking, but it’s the greatest thing we could ever do,” Nathan said. “We’re working harder than we ever have before, and there’s a lot more overhead now. But we’re having more fun than we ever had.”
From convention to conventional store
The path to opening a store presented itself to the brothers about five years ago, when each one got chances to work for other comic book stores. They were able to get a starting stock of comics, sold on eBay and hit conventions like crazy.
The two spent more than their share of early mornings at Walmart, when employees would stock all the newest, coolest action figures.
“It became an obsessive hobby,” Nathan said. “We decided that we wanted to go all out and open up a brick-and-mortar store.”
After building up, working for other stores and making connections, the brothers started a comic book convention in Joplin. Hurley Con gave the brothers the opportunity to make their dream a reality.
“That was the path to open up the store,” Jason said. “It let us get our name out and build up the capital we needed.”
The store, located at 10th Street and Maiden Lane, soft-opened earlier this month. A grand opening is planned for this Saturday.
So far, the store is a hit with customers. The Hurleys specialize in comic books, but also offer related action figures and collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering.
“I really appreciate the fact that they are devoted to comics,” said Jeremy Haun, a comic book artist who lives in Joplin. “They wanted to focus on good customer service. This is a store for readers by readers.”
The brothers play off each other’s strengths to run the store. Nathan says Jason provides a lot of energy through meeting, greeting, dreaming, and making connections. Jason says Nathan is the “finance guy” who has the head for the numbers and making dreams become reality.
Nathan said he gets a lot of surprised reactions about two brothers working so well together.
“If we had done this 10 years ago, while we were still in school, it’d be different,” Nathan said. “But we’ve both grown and matured separately, so this is like working with a close friend.”
Future filled ... with work
Both realize that the work of opening a store has just begun, and have planned ways to grow the store.
In the future, the store will run a Magic: The Gathering league and hold regular, DCI-sanctioned tournaments, such as booster drafts. Jason said Nathan is the only DCI-certified judge in a 50-mile radius. (M:TG players will know exactly what that means, so don’t worry if you don’t.)
The brothers are also working on the next Hurley Con, scheduled for March 6. Planning will begin in earnest once they have a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
But the biggest thing that looms, like the shadow of an evil villain in one of the store’s comics, is the economy.
These are tough financial times, but the brothers plan to fight it with their blend of customer interaction and vast library of titles. Because, Jason said, in times like these people want to get away from everything.
“People need an outlet,” Jason said. “Comics provide an entertainment medium that can take you to a different world.”
And those who think comic books are all about strange characters with psychological defects and predilections for tights and revealing leotards can discover much, much more. The stories for movies such as “The Surrogates,” “A History of Violence” and “Road to Perdition” were taken directly from comics and graphic novels, Jason said.
“Someone who doesn’t read comics just hasn’t found the right one yet,” Nathan said. “They don’t have to be into superheroes.”
Haun is the artist of the comic books “Berserker,” “Batman: Arkham” and “Shapewalker.” He is one of four artists that will be onhand during the store’s grand opening.
He said that good customer service and good people sway his, and others’, purchasing decisions.
“I can go online to order anything that I want,” Haun said. “But I don’t get to browse, or look at the selection. With comics and games, it’s about the community. It’s about going into your favorite places, buying comics and having conversations about retailers.”
And that’s the best part of the job, the brothers said.
“Just being here, spending all day in a comic shop, who wouldn’t want to do that?” Jason said. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years, but already I’m meeting people in this store who I’ve never met before.”
Hurley’s Heroes, located at 10th Street and Maiden Lane, will have its grand opening during business hours on Saturday. Guests include comic artists Jeremy Haun, Kevin Mellon, Dennis Hopeless and Kyle Strahm. Details: 417-782-6642.