Save The Comic Book Shoppe

$7,643 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 176 people in 5 months
Created January 17, 2019
To my many friends, family, and familiar faces, and to customers old, new, and lapsed,

This is the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write, and I’ve written a lot of hard letters in my time.

I hope that you’ll be able to help me.

The Comic Book Shoppe, the company that I’ve built up over 31 years, is in danger of closing.

There’s no easier way to put it. We’re down to what might be the final hour.

I’ve contacted banks, brokerages, even predatory lenders, just to exist day-to-day.

You may have noticed that a lot of our shelves are bare, or that small amounts of product are stretched to fill space. That’s not a coincidence. Thanks to the problems I’m facing (more on that soon), I’ve had accounts frozen, cheques bounce, and suppliers not allowing me to place orders. My stores are all suffering, and that’s not to speak of the strain it has put on me personally – but that’s not a story for right now.

Many will say the industry is slowing down, but that’s not what I’ve observed at my stores. Ottawa’s comic book scene is still very strong, and it is through these sales that we have managed to stay afloat. The most profitable years that my stores have seen were 2013 to 2016. We smashed sales records month after month for almost 40 straight months. And we would still be going strong, if not for the problems that have gathered at my feet.

The problems that myself, my businesses, and my wonderful staff are facing, stem from a singular problem that occurred in 2014. I was told by my previous accountant that I could easily do my bookkeeping myself, but between three stores, a personal life, and a family at home, I fell behind on my accounting and filing my tax returns. And when the CRA doesn’t have a tax return they need, rather than looking at similar numbers from previous years, they just make some numbers up and file a return on your behalf. That made up set of numbers has caused a series of cascading financial woes. The CRA came up with a final number that made it look like I owed the government $230,000, three times more money than I even made, so they began demanding payments, and freezing my business spending accounts. Then, on top of that, I got slammed with fees, interest, and penalties for an amount that I didn’t have, and shouldn’t have owed.

So what money was I to use to bring in more merchandise for my store?

Had I been able to continue making money, and then putting that money back into my store, as I’ve done for over thirty years, we may still be seeing the record-smashing sales that 2013 to 2016 brought us. Instead, I was struggling for over three years, trying to catch up on tax returns, having my accounts frozen, and an audit that lasted in excess of a year and a half, all while borrowing money from increasingly interest-heavy lenders, in order to stay above water.

This is where the downward spiral began: the money that I made had to go to the CRA to prevent them from freezing accounts and bringing my operation to a grinding halt, so I had less money to pay suppliers with. Fewer suppliers meant less product. Less product meant less money made. And less money made meant fewer payments could be made, both to those who deserved it, and those who did not.

So now, I find myself stuck. My suppliers are close to cutting me off. My rent payments are past due. I’ve mortgaged my home to keep The Comic Book Shoppe and The Anime Stop running, and it looks like it still wasn’t enough.

I need help.

This is very difficult for me. I’m a proud business owner – sometimes too proud. But I’ve exhausted every option. I’ve looked down every avenue, and asked every bank, broker, and loan company for assistance. I haven’t been able to escape the shadow of the spiral I’ve been trapped in for over three years. The worst part is that the spiral was started with a single made-up number, and the money I need to right the ship would be a one-time fix. The business of selling comic books is doing fine, and without this cloud hanging over me, I would still be selling comic books like it was 2016.

Asking for support in donations is not something that I wanted to do, but in order to keep the store open and product on the shelves, my staff has set up this GoFundMe page on my behalf. I've exhausted all other options and now I'm reaching out to you, comic fans, to help keep the doors to The Comic Book Shoppe open.

I’ve been selling comic books and related merch in Ottawa for over thirty years, and it kills me to think that I may not be able to continue doing so. A little bit of help may be all that it takes to restore my business to what it once was, so that I can continue serving you, your family, your friends, and our entire community for years to come.

I want to make it clear that I have caught up on my taxes, reduced staff and spending, trimmed the fat in dozens of places, and it is only the compounded fees and interest that has kept me from returning to profitability. The stores are more optimized than they've ever been. There is still progress to be made, improvements that can be done, but this campaign is my only hope right now.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope that, together, we can keep The Comic Book Shoppe and The Anime Stop parts of the Ottawa community.




Stevens Ethier

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Hello again, friends and family of the Shoppe!

This letter has been a long time coming, and I apologize for the delay. As I’m sure everyone can imagine, life at our stores has been incredibly hectic.

Before diving into the nitty-gritty, I want to take time to express my sincere appreciation. Everyone who has joined us on this rocky adventure – you are our heroes. We’ve gotten contributions from the GoFundMe, donations of items to sell in our store, people doing signings in our store, and so much more. On top of that, though, I want to emphasize my gratitude to everyone who stopped by my stores in the last little while. It seems trite to say, in the face of everything that has been happening, but every little bit helps. Anyone who couldn’t or didn’t want to donate to the GoFundMe, but still spent money in The Comic Book Shoppes or The Anime Stop still helped us! All I have wanted was a one-stop destination for all things nerdy, and having to reach out to the community for donations was the absolute last thing I ever wanted to do. I’d much rather operate the business, so that people could buy the things they love from my stores.

That said, I want to clarify the tax situation. First and foremost, the back taxes that I hadn’t filed – the ones that caused trouble – have been completed and filed. In my initial letter, the one that was posted alongside the beginning of the GoFundMe, I felt I had taken responsibility for not filing these taxes on time. While I still feel they were lightning-quick at filing an arbitrary assessment on my behalf, and took an excessive amount of time during the corrections and audit I faced, I don’t blame them for my mistakes. That’s the worst part of this for me: My stores aren’t struggling because of a slowing industry or lack of interest. They’re struggling because of past mistakes that should have been corrected.

All of the funds raised between the GoFundMe and the other methods we’ve been exploring are destined for the store itself. Nothing will be going into my pockets. Money will be used on the store, and sent to distributors so that we can continue supplying the nerdy community with the things they love. The contributions so far have been an incredible help, and there’s no way I can express my gratitude to those who have pitched in, regardless of how it was done. The initial amount of $150,000 was a “fix everything” amount – it doesn’t necessarily represent the base amount that I need to stay in operation. This was something that was lost in translation during setup of the GoFundMe page, and I’m revising the number downward in the hopes that it will make our goal look more attainable.

I’m still exploring other avenues of raising funds for the store, too. I’ve had a lot of suggestions made to me about ways I can cut costs or increase income, and suffice it to say, nothing is off the table. I’m listening to a lot of the advice that I’ve been getting. I’ve got some plans already in motion that I’m hoping will help get me back on the right track, and make it so that problems like this won’t crop up in the future.

As a business owner, my fate has always been in the hands of you, the customer, and all I want to do at this point is to create a store that people will want to see prosper. My staff and I have tried a few different options, including reducing prices to near-cost on a number of high-value items, and store-wide sales. They’ve been met with some level of success, and have helped us move forward. We’re ramping up to run another sale soon, so if The Comic Book Shoppe and the Anime Stop are stores you feel are worth helping, please give us a visit late next week to see if anything cool catches your eye.

Thank you to anyone who has donated money, time, or items for sale.
Thank you to anyone and everyone who shops in my stores.
You have all made a significant difference. We would not be here without you.
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Hey gang!

When we started the GoFundMe, it was to help us raise some emergency funding to keep our stores open, but that's not to say that the GoFundMe is our only option!

In order to help get the funds we need to stay afloat, we're having a store-wide sale, starting today!

Just about everything in our stores will be 20% off! Some exceptions will apply, of course, but you can check out our Facebook page for further details.

We're also working on updates to our campaign to better show where funds will go, and how much is required to keep us in business. The initial 150,000 amount is a "fix everything" amount, but we can still stay in operation with less. For now, we're very much playing it week-by-week, but the amounts we've received have helped immensely.

By all means, if you can't or don't want to donate, you'll still help us just by shopping with us and spreading the word!

As a personal note, the staff here is incredibly appreciative of all of the support we've been seeing, both on GoFundMe and in person.
So, from the staff:
Thank you!
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Hey again Shoppe-fans!

We're continuing to watch the counter tick up, and we're genuinely moved by the amount of support we're seeing for our store and staff. Thank you so much!

For anyone who wants to talk one-on-one with the owner, whether it be for more information, clarification, or just opportunities to convey well-wishes, you can do so via e-mail, or our Facebook page (which is run by staff, but they can relay messages!)

We've also been discussing ways to thank those that donate, but we don't have anything set in stone yet. More on that soon!

We can't even begin to express our appreciation for those that have donated, shared, or reached out with kind words. This is all new territory for all of us, and we're trying our best to be responsive, responsible, and transparent.

Thanks again, everyone!
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Hi again, gang!

We'd like to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for the support we've seen. You guys are seriously the best!

For anyone who has further questions or concerns, PLEASE feel free to message us directly on Facebook or via e-mail. We're trying to keep our comments clean and positive, and sometimes things get caught in the crossfire. If you feel your comment was removed in error (it may have been part of an entire thread that was deleted!) let us know and we can look into it.

We've also received some feedback that we should be more clear about how funds will be handled and what people can expect in return for helping us in our time of need, and we'll make a bigger post about this in the future.

Hopefully everyone can stick with us -- this campaign and the Facebook page are being run by staff who just want to save our store - it's a lot to handle, and an entirely new situation for ALL of us. Mistakes may be made (Lord knows they have in the past!) but we're doing our best to balance and do better.
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$7,643 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 176 people in 5 months
Created January 17, 2019
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