Business Monday: Unique comic book shop finds new home outside downtown Glenwood Springs
Grimacing monsters, sword-wielding heroines and flying superhumans adorn thousands of comic book covers in Tesseract Comics and Games’ newest location on Grand Avenue.
Past a posing puma, up dimly lit stairs and down an easy-to-miss hallway, a single glass door leads to a thousand painted worlds waiting to be discovered by the young and rediscovered by those who haven’t forgotten their youth.
“It’s a little hard to find at first, but I think I like that about it,” 65-year-old Toni Grenko said as she and her wife, Kat Sing, 58, browsed a wall of newly released comics. “We’re avid readers, so when our favorite book store closed downtown, we discovered Geoff and his comic shop.”
Tesseract owner Geoff Alleger, 40, chuckled behind his counter, sliding a mint copy of Rafael Maldanado Bad Hand’s “Pilla: Season One” into a protective plastic sleeve. A Denver-based artist, Bad Hand does graphic design for Tesseract and frequents the shop for artist-signing events.
“We sell more ‘Pilla’ comics than any other shop in the country,” Alleger said. “It’s about this 7-year-old girl surviving a post-apocalyptic landscape filled with mutants who feed on human flesh.”
Grenko scanned a copy of Marvel’s Squirrel Girl, a newfound favorite she discovered with Alleger’s help.
“I know it sounds dumb,” she said, thinking twice before Sing nudged her into finishing the sentence, “but, what I really love is ‘Scooby Doo.’ It’s simple, fun and it reminds me of being a kid.”
Sing, on the other hand, said her preferences lay in the science fiction realm of “Star Trek” and “Dr. Who,” with a splash of the mythological fantasy “Xena: Princess Warrior.”
Third time’s a charm
Since opening in 2018, Alleger’s comic shop has moved three times.
The first location was a Grand Avenue storefront now replaced by a new bank and the second, just above Brava Modern Trattoria, provided prime windowspace for shopping tourists.
“As it turns out, tourists aren’t really interested in purchasing comics during their visit,” Alleger said. “I don’t know if our new location would’ve worked out when we first opened, but I know it’s the best thing for the business now.”
Landing the store space in a city with little realty to offer was a stroke of luck, he explained. Prior to looking at the 1512 Grand Ave. business complex, Alleger considered moving into a space closer to the former location of American Furniture Warehouse.
“Upon reading the lease, it became very clear that they were looking for a corporate tenant — and that’s just not what we are,” Alleger said.
Another potential location fell through when the cost of renovations was revealed to be prohibitively high. Then, at the eleventh hour, Alleger was offered Suite No. 212A.
“I wasn’t sure we’d have a new location,” he said. “My garage is still full of boxes of comics from the previous location, because my old store lease ended before we could transfer everything over.”
Though officially less than one-third of the advertised square footage of his previous location, Suite No. 212A is better suited for comic book retail.
“There was a lot of wasted space we just didn’t need in the previous store,” Alleger said. “Floor space isn’t extremely important for comics displayed along the wall.”
The store’s entryway serves as a gameroom, which can be used after hours by customers because of its lockable entrances to the store proper and the business complex hall.
High schoolers stop in after school to play Dungeons and Dragons midway through the week, and Alleger said the shop’s prime game time, Friday night, is reserved for an LGBT role-playing game group.
“The (LBGT) community has been underserved and pushed aside by the worst of the comic and gaming community’s gatekeepers for too long,” Alleger said. “It’s a point of pride that they get my shop’s most desired game day.”
Creating a legacy
Alleger picked up his first comic book when he was about 10-years-old, mostly because his parents didn’t want him to.
“I grew up during the Satanic panic,” he said, explaining the 1980s and early ’90s were rife with religious rhetoric aimed at comics, toys and games that didn’t cater to the “Christian” message. “I wasn’t allowed to read comics, and that drew me to them.”
Born in New Jersey, Alleger’s father was a defense contractor, so the family moved around the country throughout his childhood. Regardless of Alleger’s parents’ wishes, the young comic enthusiast hid his hobby in the closet, under his bed and on the bookshelf behind the books they preferred he read.
The pastime fell by the wayside as Alleger entered high school, then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film from the University of North Texas, and another bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado State University.
Nearly halfway through his 30s, Alleger said he was working in a Denver comic shop when he decided to move to Glenwood Springs — closer to his relatives in Basalt — and start his own business.
“I chose this because it was compatible with raising my daughter alone,” he said. “We can spend time together, create memories and one day, this shop could be her legacy if she decides she wants it.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.