A Year of Ups and Downs – a 2021 Retrospective

by Phoenix Comics and Games

If you’re reading this, then congratulations! You, me, we did the things and made it through 2021! As is customary around this time of year I’d like to take a moment and reflect on everything that Phoenix went through over the past twelve months. We’ll highlight some of the goods and the bads, and talk about our hopes for the next year.

A Year of Ups and Downs

Let’s start this off on a positive note – this year was pretty good for the store. Between the reintroduction of weekly in-store events, the smashing success of this year’s Magic set releases, and the highly anticipated return of Free Comic Book Day, there was a lot that helped bolster our sales in a big way. With those events came a big learning curve – having to check vaccinations, getting the word out, and changing the way we do certain events like drafting to make sure that preregistration was available ahead of time. That’s a lot to ask folks to adapt to. 

But adapt you did!

This is probably one of the things that I’m most grateful for this year. When we rolled out our in-store play policies I wasn’t sure how well it would be taken.  Our team had gone back and forth about how to make things work, and we settled on a policy and procedure that we felt would work, but without the support and buy-in of our customers and community it would have been impossible to feel empowered to implement those changes. With only a handful of exceptions, people did the work. Y’all got vaccinated, showed proof of vaccination when asked for it, and stayed masked up in the store. Thank you so much for that. It took a lot of weight off everyone who works at Phoenix’s collective shoulders.

A Changing Team

Speaking of teams - Our team went through some changes. Alix and Jaesun left us for other work. Ember’s gone down to part time while getting ready to find new work in a different field. Turnover is always bittersweet when it happens – I wish Alix, Jaesun, and Ember nothing but the best. They were great to have as part of the team, and I’m grateful to have had their insight and help for as long as they were here. 

Fortunately, Jenn returned from her year-long exodus to Canada to reclaim her management position, Doug stepped up to become the store’s new assistant manager and we welcomed Sloane as the newest member of our little team. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Robert, a wonderful friend came on board a couple of weeks ago to help us out during our holiday rush. And of course, this means that we’ll definitely be hiring 1-2 more people in the next month or three.

That isn’t to say this year hasn’t been without its challenges. Even as the economy has begun to roar back to life it has not done so equally. There have been logistical, social, and economic challenges that have hit us in pretty much every part of our business. Everything from board games to graphic novels now take longer to get back in stock. On the comics front, we’ve gone from ordering from one distributor at the beginning of 2020 to three distributors by the end of 2022, each one with their own particular quirks and shipping issues.

And then of course, there’s been the break-ins.

Here and at almost every local store I know of, from as far north as Geek Fortress in Snohomish to as far south as Next Level Games; we’ve all gotten the 2-5 AM wakeup call from our alarm companies. It got so bad here at Phoenix that we had to have gates installed in our front alcoves, both to prevent campers who would bang on the windows (and set off the alarm), and someone who was straight up trying to jimmy the door open. We’ve had to replace window glass on both doors, one set of locks, and one of the large windows, all in a single year. And no, our insurance didn’t pay for nearly any of it.

I won’t linger on this for too much longer, but I will say that for me, personally, these repeated attempts at break-in have left me with a lingering sense of trauma and anxiety. As my husband Izzy can attest, I don’t go to bed anymore without confirming the store’s alarm is on and my phone is set to audible next to my bed. It’s become the worst sort of nightly ritual.

Looking Forward to 2022

Where does this leave us? Well I know that the tenor of the challenges sound pretty bad, but honestly I think we’re in a pretty decent place. I find myself looking cautiously, tentatively optimistically towards 2022. Maybe with a few crossed fingers and a small armload of lucky charms tucked into my bag.

We've got some challenges ahead of us. Covid is not going away anytime soon, and adapting to it as it adapts to us is gonna be a process. The changes wrought by the shifting comic book market are also things that our current set of procedures for orders just aren't handling very well. 

We’re already mid-way through planning out January – March, with high level plans for the first full half of the year already getting put together. Expect more Magic events, the return of the May Free Comic Book Day event, and as many other special events and fun times as I can make happen! I hope that you’ll join us for them. Until then, stay safe, keep practicing those good pandemic habits that you’ve cultivated over the past 18 months, and get your booster shot!

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