Two years ago, Amy and Jay Berent opened Pulp 716 in Lockport. Part comic book shop, part coffee shop, Pulp 716 has brought tangible comics to locals who used to buy their subscriptions digitally. Now, to celebrate the success and community they’ve created, they’re opening a new location in North Tonawanda.
Make a visit to their Lockport location and it’s easy to see why the store has been such a success. Amy and Jay share their unique interests and personalities through the store, and they welcome customers to express themselves in return.
Check out the shop on social media and you’ll see Jay channel his humorous side. Instead of simply communicating the latest comics and specials, the posts entertain and engage. “I come from a family of traveling magicians,” he explains. His brother became the world’s youngest magician at age three, so he decided to try his hand at magic. After being told he was incompetent at cards, he was invited to open the family’s magic shows by telling jokes. Equipped with a notebook and pencil, he brainstormed jokes on the road and perfected them on his family. Now his tools are Twitter and Instagram. “He’s just so absurd,” Amy says. “His persona on social media is his absolute persona in real life.”
For Amy’s interests, you can just look around the store. Hogwarts flags hang behind the donut display case, while a 9 3/4 tattoo sits directly under Amy’s left ear. What she really geeks out for is gore. “Anything horror-related in here is me going ‘Oh my God, order that, and order extra so I can steal one.’” On the side, she pursues her love for special effects makeup, specifically for the horror genre.
The menu at Pulp 716 is just as unique as the owners. Each coffee roast is recreated based on the method of the year, and Jay is always willing to share the details of each roast. “Our coffee’s historically accurate,” he explains to Lockport locals Joe Sikorski and Lindsay Atkins. “That means it’s the same bean, same grinding method, and same roasting method as the particular year that we’re serving. Right now, we’re doing the 1927. It’s a Roaring 20s roast, a post-WWI coffee.” The 1927 roast with a hint of chicory is just the beginning of their historically accurate roasts. Jay’s current favorite is the Nitro Kvass Coffee, which is made using a 1,000 year old recipe; a fermented rye malt is infused into the coffee using a nitro system, so it comes out like a Guinness.
Less educational, but just as exclusive, are their bubble tea blends. Customers can choose their favorite combinations of fruit or milk tea with boba, or choose from a special menu of pop culture-inspired teas. The fruit used in their drinks comes directly from their own garden; they grow apples, peaches, apricots, grapes, pears, cranberries, foxberries, gooseberries, black currants, mint, strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkins. Amy’s favorite speciality drink is a tie between the Whovian (for Doctor Who fans) and Butterbeer (for Harry Potter fans). Next time you visit, the drink list will probably be even longer. Jay usually comes up with the drink ideas, and the new item is sampled by regulars and on the menu within a few days.
Another reason for the shop’s success is the chance it gives customers to connect. “It’s this amazing genre that brings people together,” explains Amy. “Everyone always feels like they’re on the same page.” After seeing the huge cosplay community, they created a promotion called Cosplay Fridays, where shoppers can dress as their favorite comic book or anime character and get 10% off their purchase. Stop by on a Friday and you’re bound to see Deadpool sipping coffee, Harry Potter browsing the shelves, or an anime character ordering a pastry. Last month, one of the regulars got down on one knee to propose.
Since opening the shop on East Avenue, they’ve seen a lot of growth in Lockport. Comparing today’s sales to those of this day last year, they’re selling twice as much. Pulp has benefitted from the growth, but they give just as much as they get.
One Saturday a month, the shop closes to welcome Power Readers. Unsold comics from the shop go directly toward the literacy program, which brings in writers, artists, and literacy volunteers to help kids and adults improve their reading level through comics. Jay sees comics as the perfect way to engage readers of all ages; they’ve sold comics to a three year old discovering her first comic and a 79 year old stoking her obsession of The Walking Dead. The last group of Power Readers were inspired to create their own superhero, complete with villain and origin story. As a surprise for the students, Amy and Jay found local artists from Visions Comic Art Group to bring the comic book to life. The published comic will be sold at their shop in Lockport, as well as in the new shop in North Tonawanda.
As part of their mission, Amy and Jay search for ways to collaborate with the business community. Area businesses Chrusciki Bakery of the Broadway Market and Tater Cakes in Lockport partner with Pulp to sell their baked goods in the Lockport location. “We like to be very hands-on in the community that we’re in. We like to include everyone in the business community. It just makes sense, to work hand-in-hand with people.” After two years in Lockport, Pulp 716 has become an integral part of its community. Now they’re looking to do it again, this time in North Tonawanda.
When they began to imagine opening a new location, North Tonawanda was a no-brainer. “Everyone wants to go to downtown Buffalo, but no one wants to drive there,” explains Jay. “So I think the suburban main streets are benefitting from that.” From the water bike rentals to Food Truck Tuesdays, the canal and businesses in North Tonawanda give you the downtown experience with a small town feel. As for Webster Street, it’s Amy’s favorite area of North Tonawanda. “It’s perfect for us, that small town feel – the same thing that we have in Lockport.”
The new location is set to open in mid to late August with the same hours. Visitors in North Tonawanda will discover the same things as the regulars in Lockport: a wide variety of comics (500 to 600 per month), a unique menu of coffee and tea, tasty baked goods from local bakeries, and the chance to express themselves.
The past two years have been hard work for the couple, but they love the chance to be their own bosses and give back to their community. “If somebody would have told me ten years ago that I would own a comic book store, I would’ve laughed in their face,” Amy says. “I never, ever, ever would have pictured myself doing something like this, but now that we’re doing it, I can’t picture myself ever doing something else.”
Stay tuned for our coverage of the grand opening of the North Tonawanda location!
Emily Zielinski consumes media of all kinds, including young adult fiction, TV shows of the fantasy genre, and anything featuring powerful women. She has an on-again, on-again relationship with @CapAmericanski.
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