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Sunnyside Comic Book Shop Closing After 26 Years in Business

 Joseph Leisner, 80, is closing Comic Book Heaven, at 48-14 Skillman Ave., because of slumping sales.
Comic Book Heaven in Sunnyside to Close
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SUNNYSIDE — A decades-old comic book store in Queens is turning the page on its final issue.

Comic Book Heaven, at 48-14 Skillman Ave., will soon close its doors after being in the neighborhood for 26 years, according to owner Joseph Leisner.

"I've decided to retire while I'm still walking, talking, squawking and able to drive," quipped the 80-year-old shop owner. "I want to retire while I'm still healthy."

Leisner first got into the business in the 1970s, when he started selling back his daughter's Archie Comics and discovered it was a good way to turn a profit.

He first sold comics at an indoor flea market that used to operate near Queens Plaza, the QP Market, before he moved to his Sunnyside storefront in 1987.

Sales started to slump in the mid-90s, he said — a change he blames on the emergence of video games.

"The games basically killed most collecting," he said.

But his shop still draws its regulars, and Leisner engages in sassy banter with them as they comb through cardboard boxes filled with plastic-wrapped issues of X-Men and Mad magazine.

"If you do not put these books back in alphabetical and numerical order, we will break your fingers!" reads a handwritten sign on the front of one crate.

"I've been coming here since I was a teenager," said Peter Burkhart, 33, an avid comics collector who lives nearby and says he drops in regularly to chat with Leisner and browse his collection of back-issues, which he calls "impressive."

Burkhart said he's sorry to see the shop close, since it's one of the only bookstores still open in the area.

"It's a loss to the neighborhood," he said.

Leisner says he's been thinking about closing the store "for about 10 years," and will make it offical at the end of August or September.

He joked that he plans to spend his retirement honing his computer skills so he can delve into the world of online dating.

He's already gotten started — the old fashioned way — by hanging another of his handwritten signs in the front window of Comic Book Heaven. It reads: "Wanted. Girlfriend 35-60, attractive, educated, interesting for an old geezer who is an educated, interesting, good conversationalist, handsome, kind, fun guy. Apply within."

He has yet to get any applications, he said, but he's hopeful.

As for his collection of comics, he plans to sell what he can before closing up shop. He'll be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

After he shutters his doors, he'll put the rest of his inventory in storage.

"I'm planning to do conventions," he said. "And sell things on E-Bay."