Heroes Haven, a comic shop that carries unique table top games and pop culture merchandise, has had an impact on our community since its opening in 1987. The shop is one of the only places in town to offer issue and volume comics, card games like Magic The Gathering, and miniature figures. Aside from cute buttons and figures, the shop also has a wide variety of comic books offered at a reduced price in the back of the store. Heroes Haven has occupied four different storefronts over its 31 years in Roseburg and is now located at 635 S.E. Jackson Street in downtown Roseburg.
The family-owned store has grown considerably following the recent booms in comic culture. From the store’s beginnings in a small space with no heat and $115 a month rent, it has been bringing comic culture to Roseburg, and the store has no current plans of moving from the community.
Owner Brett White began the store at just 15 years old in order to save for college. In 1987, White’s parents Nancy and Jerry sat him down with a proposal: open a comic shop in order to save money for college. Brett White explained, “I had been college bound since I hatched.”
White had to transfer a lot of his personal comic collection into the budding business’s inventory, part of his sacrifice of opening and maintaining a small business, besides working during his free time as a 15 year old high school student.
As the years progressed, White found that much of the comic culture changed, particularly in the 1990’s, mid 2000s and modern day. Now, comic merchandise can be found in nearly every town in America at chains like Target, Walmart, Hot Topic, Spencer’s Gifts, Claire’s, Etsy, Amazon and ThinkGeek. Much of the online merchandise, and much of Walmart’s merchandise, comes from overseas factories in countries like China or Taiwan. Heroes Haven, however, as a local store provides a blend of unique products and customer service and offers many products from American companies such as Image Comics.
Shopping at local businesses has many benefits for the entire community as local money is put back into the local economy. Or, as Brett puts it, “When you shop at a small business, you are likely handing your money to the person it is going to.” That is true with White’s shop. When White isn’t tending to the store himself, customers will often see his parents Nancy or Jerry behind the front counter or organizing merchandise.
Previous to opening the shop with their son, Brett White’s parents attended Oregon State University together, and Jerry served in the armed forces. “There’s two and a half college degrees working here, and we all have different perspectives on life,” Brett White said.
White is very knowledgeable about most comic history and frequently answers parents’ questions on age appropriateness. Even when greeted with the challenge of finding unusual merchandise that their customers request, the staff at Heroes Haven try to locate individual comic issues or volumes.. They also offer a unique subscription service through the shop that is done through a third party service. Customers can then avoid the massive research that sometimes goes into starting a series from scratch.
In White’s eyes the best comic would be Grendel by Mat Wagner, and he owns everything Wagner has ever produced in his private collection. The series is even referenced in the store’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
White is excited about the new Black Panther movie. “It is unique black cinema that doesn’t dwell on a negative image.The closest thing we’ve had to [Black Panther] was the Wiz and that was really black exploitation,” White said. Black Panther is Marvel’s newest movie based on comics come to life, set in the isolated futuristic society of Wakanda, Africa. It is currently playing at the Roseburg Cinema. In terms of comics, there really isn’t any fantasy story more recognizable than Black Panther that deals with African culture. “Comics are heavily influenced by immigrant culture, I mean Marvel was started by two Jewish kids from Brooklyn,” White said. However, in lieu of seeing Black Panther opening week, White traveled to a comic expo and shared his experience on the Heroes Haven Facebook page.
Although the shop seemed like a risky business endeavor in its beginning, it ended up funding White’s four years at Oregon State University. There he majored in Liberal Studies. He said he really enjoyed classes like Film Theory. White added, “Having a degree gave me communication skills some of my colleagues didn’t have.” He also said that the degree was great for his personal growth. In terms of advice for current college students, White explained, “It costs a lot of money; I started saving ten years prior and the first year of college still wiped out a third of my savings.” That being said, White was able to pay for his education completely out of the profits generated during the 1990s comic boom. He also said, “It takes a team. You have to have a plan and focus on how to finish, but you still have to succeed in other areas in life.”
In a simple poll of 16 UCC students only four students listed Heroes Haven as a primary choice for purchasing comic or geek paraphernalia. Three students listed Amazon as their primary choice and others listed Video Games Plus, Comic Con, Walmart, and other websites as their primary retailer. Many of the 16 students had never stepped inside Heroes Haven, instead driving to Eugene or Portland for the same merchandise available at Heroes Haven.
The shop’s hours are usually 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information: Heroes Haven, 635 S.E. Jackson Street, Roseburg, OR 97470, (541) 673-5004, https://www.facebook.com/HeroesHavenComics/
Reporter’s Comic Picks: Spells on Wheels, Saga, the Infinite Loop, and Sky Doll.