When you walk into either of the two east side comic shops – the Secret Headquarters and Thank You Comics – owned by Dave Pifer and David Ritchie, it’s hard not to be captivated by the personality of each store. One is a swanky, cozy space, complete with taxidermied animals and leather armchairs; the other, a bright vibrant spot that invokes an old-school, pop-art decor. The design, location and choice of merchandise in these stores easily make them two of the most unique comic book shops in Los Angeles. Living Out Loud recently spoke with co-owner Pifer to ask him about their origins.
It’s hard to imagine now, but when Pifer and Ritchie first moved to Los Angeles, they had dreams of opening up a skate shop. Both were fans of skating and other extreme sports, so the idea seemed like a natural fit. The only problem was that the two friends also wanted to make money, and they knew that another L.A. skate shop in an already flooded market was not the answer. Instead, they decided to devote their shop to another one of their shared passions: comics. And east side comic book fans have been rejoicing ever since.
The small Silver Lake location that would eventually become the Secret Headquarters was ideal for the pair.
As Pifer puts it, “We wanted a shop in the area because we both lived there and felt the area was underserved.”
While the location was an easy choice for the duo, the interior of the store presented more of a challenge. They knew they wanted something different from the traditional tight-spaced shop, where comics were crammed wherever there was space. They started “looking at old libraries” and eventually turned to successful fashion boutiques such as Prada and Ralph Lauren for inspiration.
“We wanted something that their designers would have done,” admits Pifer. “[A place where]anyone who stuck their head in would want to come in.”
The result is the Secret Headquarters we see today, a comic lounge boasting comfort and class. The interior, however, wasn’t the only thing that was different about this comic shop in Silver Lake. The owners make a point of keeping indie comics on the shelves, rubbing shoulders with the big publishers, DC and Marvel.
When asked about the recent amount of attention given to comics in various mediums, such as TV and film, Pifer remarks, “There is a lot more attention being put on the characters that were made in comics, but not as much being placed upon comics in general.”
It’s hard to argue with him as the general consensus still seems to be that comics are still just about Marvel and DC heroes in capes and tights. It’s refreshing to see that in both the Secret Headquarters and Thank You Comics, the indies are still alive and well.
While no one has any doubts about the originality of the Secret Headquarters, its sister shop Thank You Comics, which opened two years ago after the continued success of its predecessor, wins the prize when it comes to most original name. And when you throw in an origin story with Joe Field, creator of Free Comic Book Day and owner of Flying Comics in Concord, what you get is comic lore gold.
Pifer remembers it happening like this: “Me and David were talking to Joe … and he said next time he opened a store he would name it ‘Thank You Comics’ so he wouldn’t have to buy custom bags. We liked that … but ended up buying custom bags anyway.”
It makes sense, who doesn’t like a personalized thank you?
The Secret Headquarters is located at 3817 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, and Thank You Comics is located at 5011 York Blvd., Highland Park. For more information, visit thesecretheadquarters.com and thankyoucomics.com.