Omaha’s oldest comic book shop plans to rebuild after a fire that destroyed more than half its inventory.
Earlier this week, a fire blazed across a two-story building at 8316 Blondo St., damaging five apartments, Treasure Mart Collectibles and Dragon's Lair Comics.
The Dragon's Lair main store has been in the building since 1976, selling games, toys and comic books. Before that, owner Bob Gellner was selling comics at a Benson flea market.
Dragon's Lair employees were cleaning up the store this week, trying to assess the extent of inventory loss and store damage.
“We have every intention of reopening, here or elsewhere,” said Dragon's Lair manager Craig Patterson. "More than likely it will be elsewhere. And hopefully bigger and better than before.”
Patterson estimates that 50 to 60 percent of the inventory was ruined by water or smoke. Some stuff's absolutely fine. Shrink-wrapped board games, quite a few of the bagged and boarded comics. But the water got through to everything else. At best, a lot of inventory smells like smoke.
Patterson and his staff will be going through the tens of thousands of comics in the store to see what can and can't be saved.
While the main store stays closed, customers are being redirected to Dragon's Lair's second location, at 5022 S. 153rd St. Realizing how far a drive that is for some patrons, Patterson said they're working on a stopgap solution. The shop has a store room in the building just to the west. Hopefully, they'll soon be able to offer customers comic pull lists and special orders at this spot.
Dragon's Lair has been getting quite a few volunteer offerings from the community, even from other Omaha comic book shops.
Dean Phillips, owner of Krypton Comics, at 2819 S 125th Ave., called and offered the help of his staff. “It's weird for another store to show up and help,” he said, “but we would.”
Phillips said it broke his heart when he heard about the fire, calling Dragon's Lair not only a “pioneer in the comics industry” but also a place of many fond memories for him.
When he was in his teens, he'd go into Dragon's Lair with a couple bucks allowance and raid the quarter box, which was stuffed with tons of comics a quarter apiece. Phillips found some treasures in there and loved the idea of it so much, he now has a quarter box in his store.
Krypton Comics employee Darren Stroupe also grew up going to Dragon's Lair.
“One way or another,” Stroupe said, “if you were a comic book fan and you're now in your 30s, you were a customer at Dragon's Lair at some point.”
In particular, Stroupe remembers going to Dragon's Lair as a kid and seeing manager Patterson (who's been working at the shop since '82). Patterson always remembered Stroupe and had his pull file of comics -- “Alf” and “The Real Ghostbusters” -- ready for him before he even asked.
To be fair, Stroupe said, he was easy to remember. “I was a little fat, red-headed kid who liked 'Alf' and 'The Real Ghostbusters.'”
Legend Comics & Coffee co-owner David DeMarco was also a child of Dragon's Lair. He begged his parents to take him to the shop, which at the time was the only place to go if you had DeMarco's interests: Magic: the Gathering and other role-playing games.
DeMarco -- whose shop at 5207 Leavenworth St. is the newest comic book shop in town -- said Dragon's Lair helped jumpstart Omaha's “amazing comic book community.”
“For a town like Omaha, which isn't small but also isn't gigantic,” DeMarco said, “we have about as many comic shops as L.A. That's a testament to the fans.”