Business

Valley couple opens Cascade Comics and Games

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NORTH BEND - Jack Leatherman knows a hero when he sees one.

Those heroes have fought and flown across the pages of the comic books he has read since his childhood. Even as he grew older, Jack kept up with his favorite heroes and villains and always kept an eye out for the next brilliantly-illustrated tale that will bring a new character to life.

Now he wants to share some of those heroes with the Valley. As owner of Cascade Comics and Games, Jack has established a place where comic lovers of all ages are already dropping by to see what it happening in the ever-perilous world of comic book characters.

Not only does Jack have a love for comic books, he knows a thing or two about working in a comic book store. His first two jobs were at comic book stores where he got to spend a lot of time on the proprietor's side of the counter.

"At the first job, I was paid with a stack of comic books," he said.

Jack and his wife Christina moved to North Bend four years ago, drawn to the area by Christina's grandfather, a former Weyerhaeuser, Co. employee who often brought her to the Valley to play in the outdoors as a child.

Jack is a drafter for Sub-Terra, a geological engineering firm in North Bend, while Christina works at a candle factory in Kent, but Jack often played with the idea of opening his own shop. When a small space opened up on Main Avenue in downtown North Bend, it was the perfect place to start out a small, personal business.

"I'd like to be independent," Jack said. "I'd like to work for myself."

In August, (Friday the 13th to be exact) Jack and Christina opened Cascade Comics and Games. The couple has filled the small space with a wall of comics, of course, topped by seminal editions like the first issue of Wolverine and the issue in which Superman dies (still in plastic).

A majority of the comic selection, however, shows off the latest and greatest titles. Comic book publishers DC and Marvel are no longer the only two kids on the comic block and many independent upstarts have offered readers more sophisticated art and story lines.

Classic titles, however, still are being sold and characters like Spider-Man still sell well. The Leathermans said comic book publishers keep their readers interested by involving the heroes in longer, more complex story lines that run from issue to issue. So if their character dies, readers can rest assured knowing they will be resurrected again.

Publishers also are releasing different titles for popular characters.

"I think there are eight different Spider-Man comic books," Christina said.

The movie industry also gives comic books a retail boost. The recent "Spider-Man" and "The Punisher" movies gave their respective comics a spike in sales and the Leathermans hope an upcoming movie about the Elektra character will do the same.

The store was built on a love for comics, but the Leathermans have been surprised to see how well their games have been selling. Traditional board games like Monopoly, and role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons (D and D), make up the whole front of the store. A role-playing game called Warhammer is one of the store's top-selling items. Miniatures that accompany the games, which allow players to have a kind of action figure for play, are also popular.

While the games and comics are under the same roof, all of the customers are not of one mind. The Leathermans said some customers don't even make it to the back of the store to look at the comics, they just get to the counter with the Magic: The Gathering game playing cards and they have found what they want.

"There are those that read comics, those that play games and those that play D and D, and they are totally separate groups," Christina said.

The store is small and the Leathermans would eventually like to move into a bigger space, but the couple made a good move just by opening their shop in North Bend since their closest competitor is in Redmond. While the store is still trying to get some visibility that's not readily available to their location behind the Hang Chow Restaurant, customers have been making their way into the small shop. The Leathermans joined the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce and hope to have an official grand opening sometime in October.

"Business has been pretty good," Christina said.

Those looking for the store can head down Main Avenue or just look for one of the most popular heroes from this past summer. Spider-Man is coiled right above the store's entrance.

* Cascade Comics and Games is located at 107 N. Main Ave. in North Bend. Contact the store at (425) 888-0880 or visit www.cascadecomicsandgames.com.

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