Where Everybody Knows Your Secret Identity

In every conversation we have with brands and brand stewards about the marketing might of the geek culture community, we compare the significance of the “friendly neighborhood comic shop” to that of a local bar or, taking it a step further, private speakeasy. Well, one enterprising, progressively minded comic shop in Winter Park, Florida – a proud member of Bonfire’s StoreCorps Comic Retail Activation Network – no longer needs to make the comparison. From the Orlando Sentinel comes this profile of A Comic Shop’s “Geek Easy.”

The Geek Easy Levels Up

Tod Caviness, Orlando Sentinel
11:12 a.m. EDT, April 11, 2013

If you don’t know by now that geeks are doing the bullying these days, I’d urge you to mention the words “Game of Thrones” or “Doctor Who” around the office water cooler. “The Avengers” director Joss Whedon is one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg practically owns your social life. The nerds have won. The revenge is over. So where do we celebrate?

If you live in east Winter Park, you may already know the answer. While it’s impossible to pinpoint the moment when nerds became cool, it was a comic-book store called A Comic Shop that first started to locally embrace them as such. Strategically situated across the street from the media-savvy students of Full Sail University, the name is the only humble thing about the place, which has been hosting events such as nerdcore rap concerts and burlesque nights along with the usual comic-book signings since it opened in 2005.

An expansion was inevitable, but when a hairdressing academy vacated the space next door in 2010, owner Aaron Haaland saw more than just a storage spot for back issues. For the past couple of years, the spacious back room has been a sort of members’ VIP wing, a home for A Comic Shop’s after-hours shenanigans. Now with the arrival of a beer and wine license last month, the Geek Easy has fulfilled Haaland’s vision as a “sports bar without the sports.”

Sure enough, while there are plenty of flat-screen TVs around, you’re more likely to see “Rollerball” (James Caan’s 1975 sci-fi cult film) than football. Saturday-morning cartoons are a regular staple on screens that the regulars aren’t using for video games — just one perk of a membership card (though anyone can drop by the bar during A Comic Shop’s regular hours). Geek Easy membership runs $9.95 a month and allows users access to a full library of Xbox 360 and PS3 games, plus free entry to events such as the popular weekly screenings of “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead.” Didn’t know “The Walking Dead” began its (un)life as a comic book? Membership also includes access to a well-stocked lending library of graphic novels — a great way to catch up.

When I showed up last Sunday, I was just stoked to find a bar I could finally read comics at without shame. I found that a hoppy glass of Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA went well with my issue of Matt Fraction’s “Hawkeye.” Better still, the beer was only $3.50. Comics may be getting pricey these days, but the Geek Easy helps balance out that sticker shock with reasonably priced drafts ($3- $5.50). Bottles are even less — even a cold Burdisson’s Dwarven Ale (a toasty English Brown) costs less than many single issues at $3. There’s an equally cheap bar menu, filled with some sugary but appropriately geeky snacks. ($2 Pocky!)

Dive bar prices, yes. Dive bar atmosphere, no. The walls are decorated with superhero silhouettes, video-game vignettes and local art, while the bar top is a bright collage of comic-book panels. Look up from the bar, and you’ll find power-ups from “Super Mario Bros.” instead of lampshades. (The bartenders frown on hitting them with your head.)

Sure enough, the Geek Easy will continue to host plenty of parties for the nerd faithful or curious newbies alike. Special events include a new “Comics & Comics” comedy showcase at 9 p.m. Thursday (April 18), and a weekly geek trivia night on Tuesdays starting April 23 at 8 p.m. Both are free, and here’s hoping the Geek Easy keeps its doors open for plenty more. Live long and prosper, guys.


The Geek Easy

Where: Inside A Comic Shop at 114 S. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park

Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday (with later hours for special events)

Call: 407-332-9636

Online: facebook.com/thegeekeasy