Realizing their shared passion for comic books, longtime friends Mikey Marts and Craig Herman opened Sphinx Comics two years ago. The comic store is different from others because of its wide selection as well as its employees, all of whom are legally deaf.
From the outside, it is evident that the store is something special compared to the rest of the businesses that fill the commerce center at 7000 Indiana Ave. The storefront’s windows and door are covered with comic book characters.
The store is well-staffed in addition to being well-stocked with a wide selection of comic books and collectibles.
There is no empty space within the store. Every shelf is lined with comic books and every surface and wall is filled with memorabilia and posters.
When they first met, the owners discovered that they both shared a passion for comic books and collectibles.
The dedication to their passion has lead them to where they are today as owners of their own store.
“I grew up loving comics, and I used to visit different stores and wasn’t satisfied,” Marts said. “So I wanted to establish a store that was a one-stop location.”
The two owners are also deaf, but the disability has not impaired their business.
As a deaf-owned business, the owners have been able to provide employment opportunities to others who also have hearing disabilities.
“We operate the same way as anyone else, the only difference is the video phone that we use where an automated interpreter from Sorenson receives our (customers’) calls,” Marts said.
Sorenson is a service that allows the caller to speak to an American Sign Language interpreter who then relays the message to Sphinx Comics with a video message. It helps hearing-impaired employees connect with customers without being face-to-face.
Customers are also able to communicate in the store with employees thanks to a simple solution. A notebook and pen is all that is needed for staff to assist customers who cannot quite convey their messages to the hearing-impaired workers.
“Sphinx, even though it is only a small store, has got a great selection to choose from,” said Robert Chalfant, frequent customer of the store. “Shelves are always stocked with the latest issues, as well as some other interesting finds.”
The business itself is like other comic book stores. New comics are released every Wednesday and the catalog is updated with new items frequently to ensure they are competitive. The online component of Sphinx Comics is also adjusted and added to routinely.
The comic book store holds events every week, such as card game tournaments and new comic book release days. The owners and employees have worked hard to make the business what it is today.
“(It has been) brutal,” Marts said. “The comic book store business is not the get-rich-quick scheme.”