By the Daily Post staff
When Lee Hester set up his first comic book store in 1982, he was 21 years old. “I was the youngest man in the business,” Hester said.
Now his business may be the first to permanently close as a result of government orders to close all “non-essential” businesses for three weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Lee’s Comics, located on Rengstorff Avenue in Mountain View next to Costco, has been in business at its current location since 2000.
Hester had originally set up shop in Palo Alto, but when the landlord did not renew his lease during the dot-com boom, he decided to move to Mountain View. Hester had also opened a store in San Mateo in 1987, which closed in 2016.
“Most people can’t remember there not being Lee’s Comics,” Hester said. “I like to think that what we do for comics is kind of like what Tower Records did for music.”
Difficulties faced by small businesses
Profit margins at the store were already slim, especially with the rising cost of minimum-wage labor, and the county and state orders for businesses like his to close was the final straw.
Hester said he’s received hundreds of emails following his announcement of the closure.
“To people that are into this, their world is shattered,” Hester said. “They’re so sad, because a lot of them read their first comic book here. It opened a whole new world for them. It’s a happy place for them.”
Hester said the uncertainty surrounding the government order was a factor in his decision.
“That order came in with no notice, and that order can change with no notice,” Hester said.
On top of that, one of Hester’s workers fell ill. Hester also said his wife works at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, and he’s worried he might fall ill from her exposure to sick patients.
“I realized we don’t have the resources to even try,” Hester said. “It’s just the final blow.”
Hester said his eBay store, specializing in vintage comics, will still be operating.
Today, customers can order books from Lee’s Comics at lcomics.com and have them delivered with free shipping while the store is closed to walk-in shoppers. Hester said he will give the remaining inventory to Heroes and Champions comic book store in Sunnyvale.