Nestled in the middle of downtown Champaign is a local gem. Many people don’t realize that G Mart Comics has been a part of the Champaign local business community since 1997.
For over 20 years, G Mart has been a staple in the community for comic book lovers, game lovers, and the faithful customers who have been frequenting the store since its opening. What started as an online shop back in 1996 has flourished over the years. Today, it remains the only comic book store in town.
“Greg Martin started it as standard comic book online shop. He was so successful that he was able to open the store front in the Lincoln Building in 1997, I believe. It started out as quite the small business, it got quite a bit bigger”, explains Enki Nyberg.
Nyberg, who has been with G Mart for a number of years, explains that the store’s success can be attributed to the fact that it was able to adapt quickly. The store focused on building returning customers by recognizing the things comic book fans wanted, such a as customizable books and subscription services. G Mart continues to evolve to adapt to the challenges of small-town businesses. While customers can shop inside the store, they can still shop the inventory of online comics, some of which date back to the 1950s. In other words, it’s a real collector’s dream.
Image from G Mart Facebook page
Most people know G Mart from the very popular Free Comic Book Day that takes place each May, where the store opens its doors to the public for a chance to explore its vast stock of comic books, graphic novels, and other similar items. What most people don’t know is that the store offers other events throughout the year that might be of interest to many. Every spring, the store hosts Hellboy Day, followed by Batman Day in September. On Halloween, G Mart opens its doors to trick or treaters, comic lovers, and others who may be looking for an added fright on October 31st.
If you think the store is restricted only to those who love comic books, you might be surprised to find that the store offers much more than just comics. With the recent popularity of graphic novels, Nyberg explains, the store has attracted people who may be new to the comic book scene but are there mainly for the graphics. However, for those who think they might be interested in getting a start in comic books, the store will definitely help a newbie out.
“I will gladly help out as much as possible, help them find a comic book that they might be interested in. Everyone has a favorite super hero, you know?”
Additionally, the store carries a variety of board games, and space for people to play niche games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering, etc. Gamers can also use the space to demo new games as well as play other games onsite.
“We have posters, dollar books, things for gifts, things you can decorate your house with, if you just love Marvel movies, DC movies, whatever it may be. Comic books make great wall art!”
For most people, comic book stores are rooted in nostalgia. Nyberg describes his own experience with playing Dungeons and Dragons in comic books shops:
“I personally grew up back in the day where I played D&D at comic book shops and card shops. If you look at the famous D&Ders and people who have made huge names for themselves these days, they all got started at comic books shops. I want to kind of bring all of that back, the comic book community of just like nerds having nerd things in comic book shops”
For a lot of folks, buying and reading comic books is a ritual. There are still people stopping by the store on Wednesdays to see what’s new for the week. Nyberg comments on seeing people bringing their kids in to start them out: “It always fills me with such glee when customers that I’ve had for a longest time are like ‘It’s time to buy my son his first comic book.”
G Mart has been more than a local business to many people who visit it frequently. It has become more of a community, and a place to get together with like-minded individuals. As downtown Champaign grows, G Mart will still be a local staple, inviting people of all ages and backgrounds to stop by, check it out, and pass the word along.
G Mart Comics
205 N Market Street
Tuesday-Sunday 12-7 p.m.
Photos by Jessica Hammie except where noted