University students help support local hobby shop

Written By Matt Petras

                                                                              photo by Ty Smith
Bill and Walt’s Hobby Shop sells old and ongoing comic series from all major
publishers for as low as 50 cents a book. The store is located on Fourth Avenue near Point Park’s campus.

Immediately apparent upon entering the small hobby shop on Fourth Avenue are books such as “Superman” and “Daredevil, little figurines for “Hero-Clix,” books for “Pathfinder,” trading cards for “Magic: The Gathering” and more. Venturing further, loads of model kits can be seen on shelves.

Bill and Walt’s Hobby Shop, just a block away from Point Park University on Fourth Avenue, is a comic book-specialty store run by Eric Bachman.

“We may not be the biggest comic shop, but we have the best prices, and we’re definitely the friendliest,” Bachman said. 

When a customer walks into this store, it’s a safe bet that smile and laughter-filled conversations are going to be present. Whether it is debates over what the best “James Bond” films are passionate, light-hearted argument over the future of the current “Amazing Spider-Man” comic books, there is constant commentary running throughout the store, almost always with the amiable Bachman actively participating. 

Bill and Walt’s Hobby Shop is open every day of the week except Sunday. Every Wednesday, this shop follows suit with the comic book industry and puts new books on the rack for purchase. Bill and Walt’s gets “a little bit of everything,” Bachman said. 

When it comes to DC Comics, the best-selling books at this shop are “all Batman titles,” and for Marvel, “all Avengers,” Bachman said. 

According to Diamond Comics’ (the chief distributor of physical comic books) official website, the comic book that sold the most in August 2014 was the $3.99 “Batman” #34. 

There are also retro comic books, mostly from the ‘80s to the most current with a little from the ‘70s, according to Bachman. 

There are boxes upon boxes of these old comic books, some as inexpensive as 50 cents. Customers who buy 30 of these 50-cent books get them for $9.99, 60 for $14.99, and 125 for $29.99, so there is incentive for customers to buy in bulk.

“I’m really big into Spider-Man comics,” said senior AD/PR major Tule Woodson, who enjoys buying the older issues as well as the new releases.

“I’ll try anything once,” said junior Reed Wilson, in regard to comic books. “I grew up on older stuff.” 

Wilson has been shopping at Bill and Walt’s since his sophomore year, mainly buying “little models” to use with “Dungeons and Dragons” gaming.

As an English major concentrating on creative writing, these imagination-focused games are “good exercise for telling stories,” Wilson said. 

“Magic: The Gathering,” a collectible trading card game, also has a presence at Bill and Walt’s. These cards on their own are sold for just 25 cents, 50 cents or $1.00. 

“[‘Magic’] can be as simple or as complex as you like,” said junior Christopher Schwab. 

Schwab is also a fan of “Pathfinder,” a table-top game more or less identical to “Dungeons and Dragons,” Schwab explained. “[‘Pathfinder’ is] great for social gaming with friends,” he said.

He had “always been into video games” but found it difficult to make that a social experience, so “Pathfinder” was right for him, Schwab further explained. 

More traditional models of cars, planes and other vehicles take up shelf space, like one of a 1963 Corvette and a “Battlestar Galactica” spaceship. Prices are anywhere from $15 to $100, Bachman said. 

There is also a small selection of things such as $1.00 VHS tapes and close to $5.00 DVD’s.

Bachman said that the store constantly buys items from customers, usually giving store credit. 

The store’s name is based off the two original founders. Bachman didn’t have much to say about them since they are most likely “six feet under,” he joked. He said he has never met them. 

According to their website, they started out as an electronic repair shop in the 1950s.

The shop has faced adversity, said Bachman. At one point, he called it “the cockroach of retail,” joking that it’s something Pittsburgh has been trying to squash. 

“[City regulators] make it so hard for small business owners,” Bachman said. 

Bachman cites an abundance of vacant buildings and poor tax policy as two examples. The booming popularity of comic book films does nothing for sales of actual comic books according to Bachman.

It’s a “big myth,” he said. 

Bachman also expressed hatred for the advent of digital comics, seeing it as a slight to the physical market. His sentiment is not unanimous in the comic book community.

“Print comics and graphic novels have been growing even as digital comics sales have been growing rapidly, evidence that comics may indeed be different from other media and have the potential for growth due to the increased access that digital comics bring,” reads the July 11, 2014 piece “Digital Comic Sales Grow to $90 Million” from comic book website ICv2. 

Bachman still showed concern when this was raised to him. Bachman refuses to sell redemption codes for such content as a form of boycott, passing up a potential cut of the revenue.  

Bachman claims that it is the folks studying at Point Park University and the Art Institute giving him business for over 20 years, which switched locations at one point. 

“I like supporting local businesses,” said Woodson.