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Silver Snail comic shop looks for new home in the Annex

May 16th, 2011 · 4 Comments

New owner George Zotti describes the Silver Snail as a destination store at its current location on Queen. He is looking into moving the store to the Annex. Photo credit: Adam Carter/Gleaner News.

By Adam Carter

After decades of calling Queen West home, Toronto’s famed comic shop the Silver Snail is being sold along with their building, and is looking for a new location.

Incoming co-owner George Zotti has been working at the shop for over 20 years, and said the Annex could be ideal as a new location for the iconic store.
“I’d love to go to the Annex, I think it has that counterculture feel that Queen Street used to have,” Zotti said. “Now Queen Street is all big business and fashion. When I was coming down as a kid, it was an event to come to Queen Street.”

Zotti said he thinks clients will follow the business to a new location.

“We’re pretty much a destination store here on Queen anyway,” Zotti said. “The Snail has been there from the beginning—most of the stores that were around back then are gone. Silver Snail has been that first ‘niche mecca’ and now it’s just turned into this Toronto pop culture icon.”

Zotti said the building holds a lot of memories—though some are stranger that others. ”I’ve opened our back door to people urinating on our doorstep,” he said. “And once in the middle of February a car pulled up into our back alley, a dude steps out of the back seat totally naked, runs up the alley, back to the car, and drives away. Somebody lost a bet that day.”

Comic aficionado Toby Orr has worked at the Snail on and off since 1995, and said the move was fairly inevitable.

“Queen Street now is not what Queen Street used to be,” he said. “The Annex seems like a reasonable choice. People do buy books up there—it’s near to the school and near to the hipsters.”

Orr said the legacy of the store through the years has been to offer a place much more welcoming than what many perceive a comic shop to be.

“We’re not a crummy underground dust hole, as so many comic shops are,” he said. “The Snail will always be a haven for science fiction and comic book fans, and hopefully the kind of place where somebody who is new to the hobby can feel welcome. It’ll be a place where you can come and dip your toe in without having to know everything about Batman before walking in.”

Orr thinks competition could be an issue in the already bookstore-strewn streets of the Annex. Even before the Silver Snail’s possible move, comic book lovers in the area already have the option of going to the Beguiling, Labyrinth Books, or BMV Books.

“But a little healthy competition helps everybody—at least that’s the theory, right? Hopefully having more stores in the neighbourhood will just attract more customers for everybody and we’ll all do better,” Orr said.

Peter Birkemoe, owner of the Beguiling, said he doesn’t see a move by the Snail as detrimental to his businesses.

“The great comic stores in Toronto have all historically had different specialties, so they don’t really compete with one another that much,” Birkemoe said. “Whereas we’ve taken a very graphic novel and literature focus to our store, the Snail has taken a much more merchandise and memorabilia thrust to theirs.”

Birkemoe said the real issue is not another store moving into the Annex, but what this move will mean for the southern half of Toronto that now has no comic shop.

“It might have a small effect on the Annex, but all of a sudden you have an entire half of the city that isn’t really being serviced by a local comic shop at all,” Birkemoe said.

“Even though Queen West is not what it used to be in terms of a cultural centre or hub, that part of Toronto now has a much denser population. You still have a bunch of people there that just want to buy their comics.”

Tags: News · People

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jabalong // Jun 16, 2011 at 12:26 am

    The Beguiling’s Peter Birkemoe makes a great point about the downtown core having no comic stores anymore should Silver Snail move to the Annex.

    I remember 20 years ago when there were half a dozen places to buy comics around there – Silver Snail, Dragon Lady and Grey Region on Queen, Legends on King, another place on Spadina…

    Sad to see them all decamp over time.

  • 2 James Chillcott // Nov 7, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Will be a sad day to see one of the last local operators leave Queen Street. Feels like we’re hollowing out one of our greatest shopping districts and leaving a soulless husk we don’t need. Surprised there isn’t some reasonable option in the south end of town. Hard to believe the Annex will really be able to support that much nerd action in one zone. I would worry that Labrynth will take the biggest hit.

    Good luck with the search guys!

  • 3 steve // Jan 4, 2012 at 8:51 am

    so sad to see this shop go I’ve been coming here as long as i can remember i lve all the comic it has lot to pick from some i never saw in any other shop.

    so lets hope for the best in the new year as one of the last great stores on queen moves to a new sopt in town where ever that maybe………….

    please let us fans know the minute you pick a new sopt for your shop i’ll go anywhere to get comics from you so lets hope you get a huge shop and not a small one that’s one of the things i have loved for so long is that your shop is way bigger then most other witch means you have way more stuff the anyone eles so finding what ever you like is not hard.

    also you never know what you might find in stock when you came here you came for one thing so lotssssssss more and walked a way happy and with more then you came for

    thanx for always beening there for us

    can’t wait to see you in your new store

  • 4 steve // Jan 4, 2012 at 8:55 am

    so sad to see this shop go I’ve been coming here as long as i can remember i love all the comic it has lot to pick from some i never saw in any other shop.

    so lets hope for the best in the new year as one of the last great stores on queen moves to a new spot in town where ever that maybe………….

    please let us fans know the minute you pick a new spot for your shop i’ll go anywhere to get comics from you so lets hope you get a huge shop and not a small one that’s one of the things i have loved for so long is that your shop is way bigger then most other witch means you have way more stuff the anyone eles so finding what ever you like is not hard.

    also you never know what you might find in stock when you came here you came for one thing saw lotssssssss more and walked a way happy and with more then you came for

    thanx for always beening there for us

    can’t wait to see you in your new store