Located on the corner of Central Avenue and Richmond Drive, Astro-Zombies has been a staple to the Nob Hill community for the past two decades. This month, the comic book, vinyl and toy store celebrated their twentieth year in business. To honor this event, the store is offering a different discount every week.
According to owner Mike D’Elia, the idea for a comic book store came to mind while he was working at Bow Wow records. Initially, D’Elia and a coworker had planned on creating a vintage ’80s video game arcade, but after looking into it, he realized the store needs to carry more than just video games to be able to afford rent.
Astro-Zombies’ first location opened up in 1999 at a smaller shop across the street. It carried a plethora of toys and a handful of comics. It also rented out VHS tapes. According to D’Elia, there was a Pac-Man and a Centipede machine in the back of the store, as well.
Ten years ago, the store moved to the location where it is today. Upon doing so, business started booming, and the shop started to carry a larger inventory. Between this and better visibility, D’Elia says business came together very well.
However, the store took a financial hit when Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) began.
“It was, and still is, a nightmare,” D’Elia said. “While we were told they would only be in front of any business for three weeks maximum, they were in front of us for closer to three months. It killed foot traffic and parking in the neighborhood.”
Despite ART’s impact on business, Astro-Zombies was able to prevail. D’Elia credits the store’s success to the community, saying that without its shoppers, the store would not be able to exist today.
“Honestly, the fact that the store is celebrating our twentieth anniversary is mind-blowing,” D’Elia said. “We have watched kids grow up in the store, seen families begin, and shared our mural in everything from graduation to engagement photos.” The mural on the side of the store is a popular spot for photo sessions.
Today, the store is home to around three-hundred new-release titles, thousands of back issues and hundreds of graphic novel titles. The store also puts on an annual sleeping bag drive to help not only those in need, but also those who choose to participate.
“It is so much more than just a store to so many people. Some of my longest friendships have been forged here, too," D’Elia said. "It’s a very magical place and one I am fortunate enough to make a living sharing with people.”
Astro-Zombies employee David Burton chimed in on the magic of the shop, saying that there was nothing that made him happier than putting a comic book into a kid's hands, and seeing their face light up.
Astro-Zombies has won awards for Albuquerque the Magazine's “Best of the City.” The store has also won two “Best of” industry awards for the mural on the side of their store with characters from graphic novels, which was painted by local artist David Briggs.
Luisa Pennington is the Culture Editor of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_luisapennington_