We’re geeks. We’re nerds. We love comic books, games, toys, cartoons, movies, sci-fi, fantasy, art, and pop culture. And we LOVE coffee. We’re obsessed with all these things and we wanted to hang out somewhere that had all our favorite stuff, but nothing like it existed in Salt Lake City. So we created it ourselves.
And Watchtower was born.
What is this magical place?
Watchtower Coffee & Comics is part coffee shop, part comic book store, part art gallery, part gaming space. It’s a community center for fans of any age, orientation, gender, race, or culture who want to meet up and geek out together over a tasty beverage.
We named the shop after the headquarters of The Justice League, a reference to the place where heroes gather together and stand as beacon of hope and safety.
It’s been three and half years since we opened for business and in that time we’ve grown to become a central hub for the community. In addition to providing a gathering space, we also create some outstanding specialty beverages. We exclusively serve locally roasted La Barba coffee, recently voted “Best Coffee in Utah” by Food & Wine Magazine. La Barba also runs the only Barista Academy in Utah, and they’ve provided intensive training for us to ensure the highest level of quality in every drink we serve. We maintain a variety of high-grade loose leaf teas and all the flavor syrups and sauces are made in-house, from scratch (our caramel sauce is legend). We take a tremendous amount of pride in everything we serve.
We’re so excited about the rewards we’re offering for backing this campaign. We’ve commissioned several artists to do exclusive designs for us to print on merchandise for you. Here’s how it works:
- Choose the backer level and amount you’d like to donate (Mug, T-shirt, Sticker, etc)
- If we get funded, you’ll receive a survey at the end of the campaign.
- In the survey you’ll be able to choose which design you’d like on your merchandise. If you donate at a level with multiple rewards (like the merch pack with one of each) you can select which design you’d like to have on each reward. Mix and match, or get your favorite design on everything. It’s completely up to you!
Take a closer look at the designs and the incredibly talented artists who created them.
Keep Salt Lake Nerdy
by Derek Hunter
Derek Hunter is an animation designer for Duck Tales, Adventure Time, Pig Goat Banana Cricket, Bravest Warriors, and TMNT. He is also an independent comic book creator, artist, toy maker, cool guy and friend to Watchtower.
Though he currently lives in California to work on all the shows and cartoons, Derek originally hails from Utah and drops by Watchtower for tasty beverages whenever he's in Salt Lake City.
Derek designed "Keep Salt Lake Nerdy" exclusively for all you Watchtower fans! We love it so much, we're going to put it on as many pieces of merch as we can and make them available for all you nerds.
by Punky Aloha
Punky Aloha Studio is the design and illustration studio of Shar Tuiasoa. They are based in Hawaii, on Oahu, in the cute little town of Kailua, where Shar was born and raised. Shar spent 6 years studying Fine Art and earning a certificate in Fine Art from her local community college before moving on the Laguna College of Art and Design where she earned her BFA in Illustration and Entertainment Design.
Show off your Wakanda pride with this exclusive design only available through our Kickstarter campaign.
by Chad Hardin
Best known for his work on DC Comics’ Harley Quinn, Chad Hardin has also worked on Zatanna, Blue Beetle, Justice League, Amazing Spider-Man Family, and more.
We asked Chad to draw a girl drinking coffee. What he created is the absolute embodiment of how we feel about coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, showing us all the loving warmth and security a nice hot cup of comfort can bring us.
Chris Bodily has been illustrating under the name Hatrobot for over fifteen years. His Pop Surrealist illustration is simultaneously whimsical and dark with work inspired by cartoons, comic books, tattoos, and graffiti.
Bodily’s work has been featured in Juxtapoz, Nius-News, Koi Koi Koi, In-Print, and Big Shiny Robot. He has shown with the Hive Gallery, Blonde Grizzly, Pandemonium, and 313 North Studios in Las Vegas. He is a regular contributor to Utah Stories, Salt Lake City Weekly, and Slug Magazine.
Axolotl in my Coffee
by Chelsea Maki
The only thing more adorable than an axolotl, is an axolotl in a coffee cup!
Chelsea Maki is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator based in Ogden, Utah. She combines hand-drawn elements with digital polish to create illustrations that are defined by clean lines, vibrant colors, and playful compositions.
A Center for the Community
The community in Salt Lake City is strong, tight-knit, and means everything to us. It should be no surprise that part of Watchtower’s mission statement is to strengthen and grow the community. When we were young, we were bullied and teased for loving things like comics, superheroes, Star Wars, Star Trek, Fantasy, etc. It’s incredibly painful to feel like you don’t belong or you aren’t welcome, so when we opened, we vowed that nobody would ever be treated that way within the walls of Watchtower. This is a place built on geeking out about our common interests, not pointing out and focusing on our differences.
These are just some of the local communities we support at Watchtower:
- Local Artists: We’ve designated a section of Watchtower as an art gallery to showcase local artists. We hold art shows to allow artists to sell their originals, prints, and apparel on a consignment basis.
- Comic Book Creators: Artists and writers of all genres frequent Watchtower to work on projects and hone their craft. We accommodate meetup groups ranging from hobbyists to professionals.
- Podcasters: Between live panels and meet-and-greets, hosts will often set up equipment at our tables and booths and talk for hours about what they’re experts on and fans of. At Watchtower, podcasters get space to record, a network to collaborate with, and enough caffeine to keep the conversation going.
- Local Businesses: We fill our shop with products purchased from local vendors. Coffee, pastries, and even the comic books on our shelves are all purchased from local businesses. When you support Watchtower, you’re also supporting a network of other local businesses too.
- Local Charities: We have partnered with The Video Game Heritage Institute (VGHI), a local non-profit who acquire vintage arcade video games, refurbish and repair them, places the games in businesses, and donate the quarters to charitable organizations. We currently have 4 arcade games, which directly support several different charities. When you play video games at Watchtower, you are helping Cancer and Parkinson’s research, and helping fight hunger and homelessness.
The Problems We Face
Three and half years ago, we acquired an existing coffee shop that had been at our location for years. The opportunity fell into our laps and we had no choice but to jump on it. The business was being run into the ground so when we took over we came in and started making changes, transforming it into Watchtower. We’ve done our best to adapt to the space, but there are some major problems that are severely hindering the growth of the business.
- Too Big: The size of our space is just too big for what we need. It’s incredibly expensive to heat or cool, and a lot of square footage means rent is pricey. The size of our bar and kitchen cause a lot of unnecessary running around back and forth by our baristas and, in turn, drinks take longer to make. When there’s a rush, we want to get drinks out as fast as possible, but we struggle to provide quick and efficient service with our current layout.
- Heating and Cooling: Our HVAC unit is referred to as the “Grinch heart” because it’s 3 sizes too small to control the temperature of our current space. Summers are extremely hot, and some days it’s actually hotter INSIDE the shop than it is outside! It’s not uncommon during the summer to have patrons take one step inside the shop, stop, turn around and leave. Winter is cold and we face the same struggle trying to keep the place warm. For what it would cost us to properly replace the HVAC unit and air ducts, we could build out an entirely new shop.
- Furniture: We acquired all the furniture from the old coffee shop, and it’s all starting to fall apart. Tables are wobbly, legs are broken, chairs are frequently breaking. The upholstery in our study booths are ripped, dirty, and getting worse every day. The countertops are made of concrete and starting to crack and chip. All of our cabinetry and furniture is in a drastic state of disrepair, which isn’t comfortable for our guests and needs immediate attention.
- Flooding: There are cracks somewhere in the building or the foundation, causing our study hall area to flood every time it rains. The floors become dangerously slippery which, in addition to being a safety hazard, has caused damage to personal property of our guests and damage to our own inventory.
- Roof: The roof of the building is in bad shape and needs to be replaced.
- Equipment: Old equipment is starting to shut down at a pace faster than we can replace it.
In order to grow as a business and continue providing a safe and comfortable space for the community, we have to move locations.
We are currently designing the plans to build out a brand new space in a new location, with all new furniture, new cabinetry, a nice patio, better lighting for artists, more energy efficient, and just an all around better space for people to come hang out and make connections.
Use of Funds
Upon successful funding, 100% of the funds will go towards the move and build out of the new location. We are building out the new place completely from the ground up, which means we’ll be able to perfectly create and customize our space to fit the needs of the business and the community.
Our goal is set at the absolute minimum amount we need to get the new coffee bar set up:
- New countertops and cabinetry
- Lighting and electrical
- Cold storage and refrigeration
- Replacement of some equipment (granita machine, induction cooktop range, etc)
- Tables, chairs, and furniture for interior and patio
Overfunding will get us closer to seeing our vision of Watchtower fully realized. This includes:
- Fully Operational Comic Book Shop
- Retail Art Supplies
- Local Art Boutique
- In-Shop Appearances by Celebrities and Industry Professionals
Plans for the Future
When we Re-open in the new location we have big plans for the future of Watchtower!
- Name Change: Three and a half years ago we opened the business as “Watchtower Cafe”. We’re currently in the process of updating and rebranding our name as “Watchtower Coffee & Comics”.
- Comic Books: We’ve sold a random assortment of comics at Watchtower since we opened. In the new location we will operate as a fully functioning comic book shop in addition to serving specialty coffee and tea. Our focus will be on selling graphic novels and trade paperback volumes 1 and 2 of a variety of titles. Our plan is to get people started on reading a title, then send them to other local comic book shops to pick up the rest of the run. It’s a non-compete model that gets us working with other comic book shops and gets more people reading comics, growing the comic book industry.
- Merchandise and Retail: We’re really going to ramp up the art sold by local artists, as well as more apparel, and retail items like geeky themed coffee mugs. We’re especially excited to start selling art supplies for both aspiring and professional comic book artists. We want to make it as easy as possible for new artists to hone their craft and become creators.
- Workshops & Education: We have plans to invite industry professionals lead workshops on writing, drawing, and/or publishing your own comics, podcasting 101, how to market and promote your art, etc. We also want to focus heavily on activities for youth, such as Magic The Gathering camp for girls, Comic Book Camp (helping youth create their own comics), etc.
- Special Events: We’re going to fill our calendar with events like Nerd Prom, Cosplay Lip Sync Battles, Disney Karaoke, etc.
Risks and challenges
One of the biggest challenges of this project is our timeline for completion. Once our new location is ready for us to begin our buildout, we'll need to work quickly on construction so that our current location is closed for the most minimal amount of time possible. We are doing everything we can to get a jump on things like floor plans, health department approval, etc. If our campaign is successfully funded, we can begin preparing some of these things immediately to ensure our move and re-opening happens as quickly as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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