About this project
Kowabunga Comics has been a fixture in the Downtown Oconomowoc community since 2006, when Chris Keefe & Neil Oliver set out to create a clean, family friendly, community oriented, customer service driven, comic book/gaming store.
Now the store is in danger of closing as Chris Keefe is looking to close up shop.
It has always been Kowabunga's philosophy that there's no point in having a shop if you can't give back to the community. Kowabunga has worked with the Oconomowoc Library, the Oconomowoc Food Pantry and offered Art Classes not only through the store, but also in many of the local schools. In 2013, Kowabunga helped save the Towne Cinema in the neighboring city of Watertown and assisted Moonlit Movies of Oconomowoc in organizing their huge downtown outdoor movie event, Ocomicon! This is an effort we think is worth carrying forward.
More importantly, Kowabunga Comics has been a second home to many of us, providing a safe place for kids to game, fit in, socialize and mature. Kowabunga Comics has always run a great assortment of games such as Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Heroclix, Card Fight Vanguard, My Little Pony CCG, Dungeon & Dragons and Pathfinder. Moreover, they have been committed to bringing in new games the customers want to play.
We plan to keep running the events that we run, such as Magic the Gathering on Friday, Pokemon and Card Fight Vanguard on Saturday, My Little Pony CCG and Heroclix on Sunday and Dungeons and Dragons on Thursday. In addition, we plan on expanding the events, such as larger sanctioned Magic the Gathering events that will bring people in to the community from all around the area. We also plan on running various Heroclix events, such as War of the Light. We are also going to be adding a weekly free to try board game event where you can try out a variety of board games. Also, we plan on running monthly events where people can come in and try out the various other games we run, such as Magic the Gathering and Heroclix, and learn to play for free.
That is why we've stepped up and offered to buy the store, and why we are turning to you, the community, to give us the support we need to keep going!
Currently, Kowabunga is a one man show, and Chris will be the first to tell you, sure, he can manage to keep the doors open, but one can't do it all.
One of the things the new management structure will bring to the store is many more hands to do the work, and enthusiasm for the product. We will be able to expand hours, add gaming days, expand our game lines, attend conventions to promote the store and run more community events.
We feel, as do many of the folks we have talked to in making this decision, that it would be a shame if Oconomowoc lost a resource as valuable as Kowabunga, which for years has been a safe place for our kids, friends and neighbors to hang out and play games respectfully, grow, meet new folks with similar interest.
We think that is worth preserving and we hope, like many of your neighbors, that you do too!
Risks and challenges
We are essentially starting up a business that is designed the serve the community, and while Chris has been very good about working with us about what to expect, there will be complications with any business. It is not his intention to dump us into an unworkable situation. In fact, his intent is just the opposite. He does not want us to flounder around for a year or two only close up shop.
He has put some very strict condition on the sale. He will only sell us Kowabunga if we show that we're prepared and that the store will be well run. He insisted that there be 'Comic Book' people and 'Gaming' people in the management structure so that both demographics will be knowledgeably looked after. And we have to have 2 years of reserve funds set aside in the event of the unexpected and slower months. We've taken a hard, honest look at the numbers together, and are both comfortable moving forward.
There are two main benefits of the buy out. One is that Kowabunga's operating expenses will be reduced. One of the first things we went over was where we could cut costs without sacrificing quality, so as to give us the best chance of success in first years. Secondly, we will have strength in numbers. Chris has ran this on his own for the last 3 years, while we have several of the former employees who can all take a share of the work. This will give us the ability to expand hours and game lines and do more grass roots kind of things, like conventions and events, that Chris simply didn't have the time to do. In addition, we can do more events in the local community, like Ocomicon over the last summer. We expect this effort will pay off in an expanded customer base, and therefore greater stability.
We are aware that there will be a tendency to want to expand too quickly or remodel too extravagantly. Chris has counseled we should start slow, keep costs low, keep projects smaller early on, and only begin building when surplus develops. Toward this end, we've decided that the profits from the first two years will go right back into the store reserves.
So, our plan is to take things slow, without sacrificing service or quality, and not make any big decisions until we have a comfortable working knowledge of the ebb and flow of sales and a good grasp of what our customers want. Our startup costs include funds so there will be no interruption of services or product flow between Chris’s last day and our first.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle we've discussed, of course, especially in light of bringing in a larger management group, is inter-group dynamics. A lot of those challenges will just have to be met as they arise, but a large part of this is choosing the right folks to work with. Enthusiasm is a must, level-headedness another, as well as people who just care about the people around them. But even the best of intentions can sometimes go astray, so we're drawing up very specific guidelines for how decisions are made, how profits will eventually be divided, where responsibilities rest, what happens when someone wants to leave and the like. We are making sure everyone has a good understanding of how we want to do things, and are in agreement on how we're doing things.
Chris has also said that he would be happy to available the first couple of years in an advisory capacity too, should we need specific knowledge he may have. While he won’t be working behind the counter, he will be working with us behind the scenes, helping us with ordering and other such complications.
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