Nestled in the San Gabriel Village inside Nostalgic Books and Comics hangs a poster with a quote: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For Peter Mellini, owner of Nostalgic Books and Comics, owning a comic book store has been a lifelong dream.
“I had worked at a comic book store for about four years back in 2002,” Mellini said. “That store closed, and I ended up working office jobs for a few years until I was laid off a week before Christmas.” Undeterred and in good spirits, Mellini stopped pursuing office work, and instead pursued his lifelong ambition to start a store. “At this point, I had been working at these offices for several years, so I turned to my girlfriend and told her that I was going to try the comic book store concept full-time.”
Nostalgic Books and Comics' storefront in the San Gabriel Village
As a child, Mellini had difficulty reading. “The teacher basically told my parents that I had to take a test when we returned from the summer, and if I didn’t pass, I’d be held back because my reading scores were poor.” To help develop his reading, Mellini’s parents began nurturing his interest in comic books, which eventually turned into a lifelong interest. Eventually, Mellini pursued a degree in journalism – an homage to his favorite comic book writers – to turn his interest into a career. “I remember reading that all my favorite book writers – especially in the early days – worked in journalism since there wasn’t a way for you to major in the field of comic book writing.”
After several years working in various offices, Mellini eventually found Nostalgic Books and Comics, a small shop located in the heart of the San Gabriel Village. Unassuming in nature, the store is filled to the brim with comic books and comic book memorabilia. After managing the San Gabriel location for only a year, Mellini eventually became its full time owner. “The original owner got burned out on the idea, so I offered to buy it. I’ve been here ever since.”
A look inside the store.
Since owning the store, Mellini has had his fair share of ups and downs. Unlike many shops, Nostalgic Books and Comics is truly located off the beaten path, nestled among the storefronts in the San Gabriel Village which sits adjacent to a residential community. “It was a little rough. I always tell people that about a decade ago, having a store in this area would have been difficult because of its location. Now, with social media, it’s helped substantially.”
Even then, Mellini notes that attracting younger readers has become uncharacteristically difficult in recent years. “Because comic books are featured heavily in movies and television shows, parents think comic books aren’t for kids,” Mellini notes. “Compare that to my childhood where comic books weren’t considered real books.”
However, despite the difficulty in reaching younger audiences, Mellini is still surprised by the large turnout for seasonal events. “I’m always surprised to see people turn out for events like free comic book day in May. People are surprised that we're here half the time with very little foot traffic. Yet, we’re still here several years later.”
Compared to some of its more pop culture-centric peers, Nostalgic Books and Comics continues to focus almost exclusively on selling comic books to the surrounding community. “I always tell people that we’re an old school neighborhood comic book store, and that’s always been our goal – to focus on comics.”
Community residents can visit Nostalgic Books and Comics at this year’s FairviewCon, a comic book and superhero block party, on September 21. The event aims to promote businesses in the San Gabriel Village with convention-style booths and contests. "Slowly but surely, people have been coming in because of the event flyers. We're in a time where comic books have hit a peak with movies and television shows," Mellini said.
You can learn more about Nostalgic Books and Comics on their website.