Comic book shop owner ‘delighted to be back’

Coffee and Heroes was among the shops in Smithfield Market able to reopen on Monday for the first time in three months.
Coffee and Heroes was among the shops in Smithfield Market able to reopen on Monday for the first time in three months.

The owner of a Belfast comic book shop has said he is delighted to be reopening his doors.

While shops in the rest of the city have been reopening in recent weeks, Coffee and Heroes was among those in Smithfield Market allowed to reopen on Monday as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Owner Allan Taylor said it felt great to be back after three months.

Coronavirus – Mon Jun 22, 2020
Coffee and Heroes is in Smithfield Market (Liam McBurney/PA)

“We were slightly behind the rest of the city centre, just with Smithfield being a market place and extra procedures had to be put in place in the communal walkway area,” he told the PA news agency.

Mr Taylor said his business was able to do some trade during the coronavirus lockdown, delivering new comics as they were released.

“The way the comic industry works is that there are weekly releases, so we have a lot of regular customers who would get the new releases every Wednesday,” he said.

“For the first maybe five to six weeks of the lockdown, there weren’t any deliveries but then they started again and we were able to set up deliveries to people’s home and via the postal service.

Coronavirus – Mon Jun 22, 2020
Social distancing is in place inside the store (Liam McBurney/PA)

“There was definitely a hit to the business but the council were very good, we had a couple of rent-free months in Smithfield. While obviously the income wasn’t as good as before, the outgoings were not as large either.

“I think in the first week of lockdown, like most people, we felt a little sorry for ourselves but once you realise it is out of your control, you figure out a way of making it work so that all that hard work in setting it up doesn’t go to waste.”

The shop, which has been open since 2017, has introduced social distancing measures, however Mr Taylor said he expects people to initially be wary about returning to shops.

“But we have had a really good steady flow of customers today and lots of well wishes on social media, people planning to come in through the week so it has been a very positive response,” he said.

“We have a relatively larger unit so we can take up to four or five people at any one time and still maintain the two-metre distance.

“All coffees are take away now and we have measured out sections of the store so there should only be one person in each area, a one-way system, hand sanitiser, and we have disposable gloves if people want to use those while browsing.”