PORTAGE PARK — For years, artist and writer Alain Park thought about opening an independent, communal bookstore dedicated to the European comics and graphic novels he grew up reading.
The pandemic was the push he needed. Now, the longtime Portage Park resident is ready to fulfill his dream of creating an inclusive neighborhood bookstore — but he needs the community’s help to make it a reality.
Park launched a Kickstarter campaign last week to raise $15,000 for his bookstore, Howling Pages, which will house international, local and indie comics; graphic novels with a children’s section; and illustrative and printed artwork.
Park estimates he will need $30,000-$40,000 to get the store off the ground. His family has set aside $15,000 of their own money and is hoping the Kickstarter can pay the remaining start-up expenses.
“We’d love for this store to be welcoming to the new people who want to get into comics and not feel intimidated by the genre, but also be the boutique place for those who love comics and illustrative art,” said Park, whose children and wife will help run the store.
So far, the campaign has raised about $4,400. It expires Dec. 1.
Park said around $10,000 of their initial costs include rent, interior decoration and supplies. A portion of the funding will also help build inventory, which Park estimates will cost $15,000-$20,000.
To start, the family is donating books and artwork from their own collection, but Howling Pages is also looking for community donations. To donate comic books or graphic novels, email Park at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing deal — meaning Park will only get the money if his $15,000 goal is met — he said he is dedicated to opening Howling Pages even if his fundraising doesn’t work. Plan B would be to see if he can get a bank loan to offset the cost.
“If we can avoid having to go to a bank and pay a huge interest the first five years of our existence, that will give us a leg up,” he said. “I think that will help the longevity of [the bookstore] and also gets buy-in from everybody so they can be a part of making it happen and have that be shared.”
That community support is emblematic of the vision for the store, which can be seen as a “third place” for neighbors to foster creativity, inspiration and networking, Park said. The family hopes to host meetups, local author talks, classes and workshops in comic-making and printmaking and more.
“What will make this different than a local comic shop is the atmosphere of being a book shop. … It will be so familiar to many different kinds of people,” he said. “The other thing it brings is affordability. We want the print side to be accessible and be very much within the same price points [as the books] because there is a lot to explore.”
Comic book and graphic novel enthusiasts Lisa and Bill Roe, who live next to the Park family, are excited for Howling Pages to serve the neighborhood, which lacks an independent bookstore for people of various ages. The couple donated to the fundraiser at its launch.
The Roes moved to Portage Park from Logan Square in 2013. They said they are happy to see more art opportunities that can fuel their passions and help them connect with like-minded residents.
“Our daughter is into graphic novels, and our son is into manga, [so] the store is exactly in that zone of our interests,” said Lisa Roe, a local librarian who runs a monthly graphic novel reading group.
Bill Roe called himself a lifelong comic reader and said Howling Pages will bring more culture and business to Portage Park — and allow him to expand his comic book intake.
“I think the neighborhood is starting to turn around. … There are so many abandoned storefronts in the area, so anything that can fill those shops with varied interest and bring more culture to the neighborhood is amazing and great,” he said.
Park said he’s looking at three stores on Milwaukee Avenue near the Six Corners area, close to Tone Deaf Records, 4356 N. Milwaukee Ave., and comic shop Maximum Distractions, 4405 N. Milwaukee Ave. He said being close to these businesses that already have a staple base can help bring in more customers to Howling Pages.
“European comics are underrepresented, so there won’t be much overlap” with Maximum Distractions, he said. “There is room for independent comics. … I am excited about making this a friendly, accessible place that has a deep-dive aspect to it.”
If all goes to plan, Park said the store could secure a spot before the year is out and open in spring.
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