One of the newest businesses on the Avenue is POP!, a store specializing in comics and graphic novels. Attached to Jasmine Belle Café, the store is easy to spot with its logo, a colourful homage to the onomatopoeia found in comic books.
According to owner Ron Ditco, today’s comics “are the best they have ever been this millennium” and his goal is to share his love of the genre with new audiences.
POP! is a boutique store dedicated to the neighbourhood, where anyone can come in and explore comic books and graphic novels. Comics are priced from 50 cents to $10, while graphic novels are half the cover price. The reasonably priced stock for people who love to read comics is an underserved niche. He buys his stock from other comic dealers and will take trade-ins.
Ditco worked in the comic industry for over nine years before taking a hiatus from both the business and reading comics. He said he “became disenfranchised with the comic industry being an investment for collectors.”
Ditco started this new venture when his niece’s grandmother purchased a Wonder Woman comic for her. His niece enjoyed it and Ditco started buying and reading more comics to see if they were suitable for her age.
When he opened POP!, Ditco followed his philosophy of comics being “fun to collect, but more fun to read.” While some comics are in plastic sheaths to protect the paper, they are meant to be read and enjoyed.
He explained he was “passionate about comics as a kid. They kept me out of trouble and gave me the incentive to get a paper route” to afford his passion. With POP!, he wants to “spark the imagination of local children and provide an environment where they can cultivate a hobby.”
Comics, according to Dicto, were considered “subliterate junk” 20 years ago. That opinion has now changed; today, they are seen as a vehicle to instill a love of reading in children who may be reluctant readers.
Reading With Pictures is an educational organization that, according to its website, “advocates for the use of comics in the classroom and beyond to promote literacy and improve educational outcomes for all students.” They state, “we know that comics have the potential to be more engaging, more efficient and more effective educational tools than many traditional classroom materials.” They also work with academics to integrate comics into the classroom curriculum.
Ditco is already seeing a steady stream of customers who loved comics when they were children. He hopes to cultivate that same love of reading and pursuing the artform in younger neighbourhood children.
His primary focus is to create a clubhouse atmosphere where customers can come and play games and buy a drink from Jasmine Belle Café. He wants it to be a meeting place, not just a retail store.
“If it’s not fun this time, I don’t want to do it,” said Ditco.
OWNER: RON DITCO
11806 87 ST
HOURS: TUES-SUN, 11 am to 5 pm
Featured Image: Ron Ditco and his niece/VP of Creations, Scarlette Carlson, stand in front of the colourful POP! sign of the Avenue’s newest store. | Rebecca Lippiatt
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