Comic books are not just for teenage boys. To make that clear, Wilmette’s new hobby shop put it right in the name.
Heroines and Heroes, 1129 Central Ave., opened in downtown Wilmette Friday, Feb. 5, with a store name edited by owner Andrew Beckmann’s daughter.
“We were trying to find one suitable and came up with Heroes and Heroines,” Beckmann explained. “My daughter said why don’t you put the girls first. That stuck with us. It gave validation to how we’re going to approach this.”
Beckmann said at Heroines and Heroes there is plenty for the “traditional comic book crowd,” plus a variety of lesser-known and independent titles.
Plus, comics are only a part of the hobby shop’s business, which includes gaming and figurines or miniatures.
Beckmann, a longtime Wilmette resident, recently left his career in technology and telecommunications. In early 2020, to help him out with his idea for a hobby store, he tapped Vernon Wiley, the former proprietor of Comix Gallery, which stood in Wilmette’s Fourth and Linden district for 25 years until 2018.
Wiley and Beckmann announced plans for a new shop on social media, using the old Comix Facebook page.
Heroines and Heroes found a storefront in September, grabbing the space adjacent to Lambrecht’s Jewelers that was formerly occupied by Antiques and Jewelry by Barats.
The new-business process was made more complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which Wiley said slowed down every step in the process.
But the hobbyists pushed through and opened their doors for the first time Friday and plan to do so every day: from noon-6 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday; and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, which are comic-release days, hence the longer hours.
Wilmette resident Claudine Seidel was an early visitor to the shop, coming in with her son, Walker, and her daughter, Caroline, on Saturday, Feb. 6.
The Seidels were consistent patrons of Wiley’s Comix Gallery, and Claudine told a story to explain just how much it meant to her family and the community.
Walker has special needs, she said, and Comix was the first place he went with his own money to purchase a comic book. He walked to the store and back home with his new book.
“It was a big hit for us in the neighborhood,” Claudine said of Comix. “It promotes reading and gets kids off the screen.
“Vern holds a special place in our hearts, and now we have a new place to go with the family.”
Both Wiley and Beckmann said comic books can play an important role in reading development, as the captivating imagery and the conversational text make for a unique and enjoyable experience for children.
Claudine’s daughter Caroline, 11, agreed. At Heroines and Heroes, she already had a classic “Looney Tunes” comic in her hands and was still looking.
She said she also likes “Wolf Walkers,” just one of the comic books that draws her in.
“They have that feeling that you can only get from a comic,” Caroline said. “You feel entwined with them. Once you are in it, you feel a whole world away.”
That feeling is what still inspires lifetime hobbyists Beckman and Wiley, too.
That’s why they built a shop that both appeals to everyone on the hobbyist spectrum, from newcomer to expert.
When the pandemic subsides, the shop will also be a gathering place, hosting tabletop gamers, gaming and miniature demos, and more.
With Beckmann’s specialization in miniatures and gaming, and Wiley in comics, the duo believe the shop has what it takes to stand the test of time.
“We think we have a good sustainable business in the community because of the diversity,” Beckmann said, later adding, “We’re here to stay. I hope to do it until I retire.”