Tom Fleming – Founder and Owner
I started collecting comics when I was about 14. The book that got me hooked was Fantastic Four #171, the first part of a five part story featuring Galactus & the High Evolutionary. I had to find out what happened next but by the time I read it Fantastic Four #180 was on the stands. So I found a used bookstore that had a wall of back issues and, once I realized these things were numbered, the collector in me took over. I had read comics before this one, but just casually, picking up an issue here and there. This was the issue that did it. I wanted them all!
I started a comic shop in my parents’ basement when I was 16, serving both local and mail order customers. I moved to the Kalamazoo area in 1980 and opened Fanfare in 1983. The store was first located on South Westnedge, across the street from Southland Mall. It was quite small, maybe 650 square feet in all although over half of that was devoted to mail order, leaving a scant 250 square feet for the retail space. If we had 3 customers at the same time it could get a bit crowded. When we first opened, we mainly just carried comic books and a small selection of sports cards, adding games in 1986. In 1987 we moved to a larger location in our current mall, shifting to another location in 1995, and landing in our current space in 2001. With each move we gained more space and added more product lines to the mix. In 1990 we opened a second location in Battle Creek which closed near the end of 2000. The timing worked out well as we were able to combine the two stores into our new, larger location in Kalamazoo.
Today Fanfare employs as many as 12 people at any given time. This is an exciting time to be in this business. The quality of comic books is better than ever and I find myself reading more titles today than ever before. I was an avid Magic player for 15 years and still enjoy the occasional board game when I find the time.