Kind-hearted Brooklynites have raised thousands of dollars for a beloved Bay Ridge comic store that fell behind on several months of rent because of the state-mandated shutdowns of non-essential businesses during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“I was very surprised when I first saw and was so touched by all the support we have been getting,” said Abdulilah Esa, owner of Galaxy Comics in Bay Ridge. “I would like to thank the community for all the support and all the good comments we have been receiving.”
Hoi Chen, a longtime customer of the comic shop, created the online fundraiser on June 11 and set an ambitious $29,000 goal — and has since received over $8,500 in donations in less than three weeks.
“The store is a mom and pop comic book shop in Bay Ridge Brooklyn and the only true surviving one,” wrote Chen. “[Galaxy Comics] would be grateful for all the help it can get. Any amount is greatly appreciated.”
The comic store owner owes nearly $28,000 in back rent on the Fifth Avenue storefront between 68th Street and Bay Ridge Avenue — and, while he’s received government money to cover the cost of his employee’s salaries, Esa hasn’t seen enough help to pay his mounting operating costs.
“We initially did get the [Paycheck Protection Program loan],” Esa said. “But it wasn’t much because I only have two employees.”
Instead, his community has stepped up and gone to great lengths to ensure that their beloved comic book shop makes it through the pandemic.
“We had customers that wanted to help, so they said they would come in and spend money in the store,” Esa said. “They were not looking for something specific, only with the intention to spend money.”
The Sunset Park native first reopened his shop on June 7 — after the city entered into Phase One of its reopening — and said he has noticed a change in shopping behavior as the pandemic has discouraged many from browsing without a specific purchase in mind.
“You could say 90 percent of the people that walked in so far end up buying things,” Esa said. “Unlike before, we had a lot of walk-ins and browsing and then maybe someone buys something.”
Now, in Phase Two of the city’s reopening, patrons can shop inside non-essential storefronts — which Esa hopes will bring a much-needed influx of both visitors and cash to his cherished business.
In the meantime, the community is continuing to rally behind Esa and Galaxy Comics. As of Monday afternoon, Chen’s GoFundMe was shared more than 1,300 times.