Typically, employees at Kapow! Comics, Gaming & Toys sell items featuring heroes facing disasters, but right now it’s their turn to overcome the odds.
After losing more than a million collectible game cards, over 1,000 video games and collections of comics dating back to the 1960s in a recent fire, employees at the store in the Lanier Crossing shopping center are working to save as many products as possible.
After initially aiming to re-open less than a week after the storeroom fire, the goal is now to open the doors again on Saturday, March 4.
“We’re doing what we can. We had to clean everything up,” said owner Any Diehl, as he cleaned soot from a vintage Star Trek toy. “When you have a fire, apparently everything gets soot damage on it, so everything that got soot damage on we had to clean.”
The fire occurred early in the morning of Thursday, Feb. 16 in a backroom used for an office and as storage for an online store.
“We lost all of our Magic cards, all of our Yu-Gi-Oh cards, all of our Pokémon cards. We went from a million cards to, I don’t know, 5,000 to 6,000,” Diehl said. “Everything happened it that room. That was where we did our online business and [kept] the cards that we sold.”
Comic books and other items were also ruined.
“We did lose some collections. We lost Silver Age (around 1955-1970) comic books; they’re all water damaged. There’s nothing we can do,” Diehl said. “We can still read them; they just lost their value.”
Included in those were collections of X-Men, Avengers and Spider-Man comics dating back to first issues from the 1960s.
Diehl said the smoke caused more damage to the store than anything else and that there is still a smoky smell nearly a week later. The store hired professional cleaners but has tried to do as much of the cleaning as possible in-house to save cost.
“It’s honestly a good thing to know,” Diehl said. “We’re going to do a write-up to let other stores know if you have a fire in your building, it’s not just a fire. The fire was very small, the water damage very large and the smoke horrible. The smoke is what caused all the problems.
“It’s a residue that gets on everything, and no matter how much wiping I do, it’s still there.”
Along with getting the information to other stores, there are some other positives coming from the fire, such as the landlord using the incident as an opportunity to move forward with expanding into a vacant suite next to Kapow.
“He’s thinking about remodeling the entire building over on this side, so opening the whole space up to a 6,000-square-feet space and then give north Georgia the largest gaming center in the state of Georgia.”
Diehl said the store gets customers from ages 6-65 and offers “all the geeky and nerdy stuff you want,” including tournaments, leagues and teaching people how to play cards and board games.
“We do a lot of stuff here that the community wants that only we offer,” he said. “My wife describes it as a clubhouse. She pretty much describes it as no different than kids going to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or 4-H Club or anything like that. This is just another club in Cumming.”
The outpouring of customers has also been felt by employees.
“The customers keep coming up and wanting to buy stuff from us,” Diehl said. “Everybody’s said as soon as we’re open, they’re going to flock over to the store just to buy things just to keep us going.”
“It’s been overwhelming,” said co-owner Angela Ortiz. “We’re so blessed and thankful.”
Some of the younger regulars apparently are not taking the loss well.
“They’re distraught,” Diehl said. “We’ve had little kids come up to the doors in tears because this is where they hang out at.”
Diehl said customers are even working to take care of employees until the reopening.
“All we’re trying to do is get the doors back open so we can start paying employees,” he said. “We had someone that started a GoFundMe page for the employees, so the employees are getting a paycheck now without actually working.”