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After nearly closing, Black-owned comic book store saved by 'army of angels'

Eric Childs set out to curate a comic book store that brought Black History to the next generation. In 2020, fans of that mission saved his business.

MINNEAPOLIS — You don't find many comic book stores with back stories that rival the volumes on their shelves, but that's the case at a small shop in Burnsville. 

 "Mind's Eye Comics has become a symbol of the good that's in all of us," said the store's owner, Eric Childs.

Eric says he saw how that good could transform his business shortly after he did an interview with KARE 11 for Black History Month in 2020.

At the time, he spoke to reporter Adrienne Broaddus about being the only Black owner of a comic book store in Minnesota, and why he curated his shop to lift up Black stories all year.

"I want to make sure I keep graphic novels that cover Black history," Childs said. "The thing that's nice about comics, you tie in visual art with actual history and you have that ability in this space, and I try to exhibit those books." 

A year later, Child's says that interview with KARE 11 came at a critical time.

"That actually turned out to be a godsend during the pandemic," Childs said.

Just a few weeks after the story aired, Eric closed his doors due to concerns about COVID-19 in the community. Days later, the statewide shutdown kept his doors closed. He says the difficulties brought him to his knees.

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"I just put it in God's hands because I really didn't know how to get out of this situation," he said. "It's total devastation when you're sitting in your store and inventory is still showing up but there is not one person that is walking in. Not because they don't want to, but because they can't."

Things got worse as spring turned to summer, and the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests and discussions about race. But with the spotlight on Minnesota, Childs soon found that comic book fans and industry leaders began to discover his story, and spread the word about Minnesota's only Black-owned comic book store.

"I got an email one day from Damon Lindelof," Childs said. "I was in disbelief."

Lindelof is the Emmy-winning creator of the HBO's The Watchmen, one of 2020's most powerful, and acclaimed, shows; which used a legendary graphic novel, to confront issues of race in America.

"He says, 'Eric, this is Damon Lindeloff, and I'm concerned how your business is navigating the pandemic,'" Childs said. "He goes, 'I've seen a video and I love what you do and I want you to continue to curate the way that you curate.'"

Childs says Lindeloff helped the store generate new sales and online donations.

And he wasn't the only industry giant to lend a hand. Legendary comic writer and illustrator Dan Jurgens offered to do a free signing for anyone willing to come and support the store.

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Then, just a few weeks ago, Eric learned that the Vans shoe company had selected Mind's Eye Comics for its "Foot the Bill" initiative. Childs worked with the company to design a custom shoe that is now on sale. All of the net proceeds will directly benefit the store.

"I'm like, 'Really? I actually wear Vans. Are you kidding me?' I was excited to say the least," Childs said. "The main premise of the shoe is that it has been a journey since I've taken over, in everything that we've been through. The wearer of the shoe, not only is supporting the store, but they're actually in the walk and the journey with me."

For Childs, it's a journey that feels like a prayer answered.

"It was like an army of angels. That's literally how it felt to me," he said. "All of these people begin to come, begin to call, begin to reach out online. Industry people begin to reach out and say, 'What can we do to help?' It was a good reflection of the good that is out her."

The good that now stands as the symbol of his store.

"People come around this stuff to imagine something better," Childs said. "People come around this stuff to marvel at what makes humanity great, which is diversity, which is culture, which is all the color and all nuances and all the imagination that has carried human existence since the earliest paintings in the caves. It's a huge and important piece to community building in any city."