LINCOLN SQUARE — Marvel's Avengers have been doing boffo box-office at the cineplex but not even the combined star power of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and the Hulk are enough to keep Variety Comics in business.
The shop and its eye-catching superhero murals have anchored the corner of Western and Wilson avenues for 41 years. At the end of October, that run will come to an end, Variety's owners say.
"Business is down," said co-owner Vin Nguyen. "It's sad but you know, it is what it is."
Variety, which opened in the summer of 1974, bills itself as the city's oldest comic book store, older even than Wolverine.
"Over the years, the little shop on Western Avenue was witness to the evolution of an entire industry," according to a post on Variety's Facebook page. "In 1975, it sold the first issues of the newly created X-Men."
Rick Vitone ran the store for more than 30 years, specializing in vintage back issues.
"Rick loved classic comics, and he always had the best selection," long-time customer Michael Dennler said. "And if he didn't have it, you could be damn sure he'd find it for you."
Following Vitone's death in 2009, Nguyen, a diehard comics fan who started working at the shop when he was 14, took it upon himself to keep Variety open. He bought the shop along with business partner Victor Olivarez.
"When something is close to you, you want it to continue," said Nguyen. "I was young, Rick was my friend, why not keep the place you love going for as long as you can."
The decision to close wasn't easy for Nguyen.
"I've got guys who've been coming here for 40 years," he said.
He made sure his regular customers were the first to hear the news of Variety's shuttering, before word got out to the public at large.
"They were sad but they understood," Nguyen said.
His focus now is on emptying the store of "years and years of stock."
"We've got Superman from the 1950s," Nguyen said.
All back issues, toys, hardcovers, etc., are now selling for half-price. New releases, which arrive weekly, won't be discounted until the last week of October, he said.
The final day for the store, 4602 N. Western Ave., will be Oct. 31.
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