Reopening for business: Comic shop on road to recovery following downtown fire

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Shoppers peruse boxes of comics during Wolverine Comics' fire sale Thursday. The comic shop is raising money to relocate following a fire at Kelly Square in October.

As crews are preparing to repair the damage from the Halloween fire in downtown Sherman, a local business is hoping to move forward into 2022 with a fresh start and potentially a new location.

The owners of Wolverine Comics hope to raise enough capital to reopen their doors following the fire that displaced and damaged several businesses and destroyed others.

For the first time in more than two months, the comic book opened its doors for business on Thursday. While the storefront had changed, and the smell of smoke and burned wood hangs in the air, the owners for the business hoped this would be the first step toward a return to normality for the brick-and-mortar comic book shop.

"We are trying to sell everything that survived the disaster," co-owner Beth Ward said Thursday. "Anything that god water damaged, we got rid of. Anything here just got smoke."

Wolverine Comics was one of the newest tenants at Kelly Square when it and the other businesses that were located in the space were displaced in late October. The comic shop had only been in its space since March 2021.

Since the blaze, Ward said she and her husband have been able to return to their storefront and assess the damage, which was relatively light compared to the epicenter of the fire.

Ward said she found out about the fire through one of her customers, who in turn heard it from one of their customers at a local restaurant. At first, Ward said she didn't know what to think as she made her way toward downtown Sherman.

"We stood out there on the courthouse lawn like half of Sherman," she said. "I mean, nothing brings people out like a good fire."

Wolverine comics temporarily reopened for a fire sale Thursday at Kelly Square

Despite the blaze, Ward kept her spirits high about the ordeal and tried to make the best of the situation. Rather than get discouraged by the situation, she tried to find beauty in it all and her surroundings that she described as straight "out of a horror movie" with melted ceiling fans and other signs of destruction.

Late last year officials with Sherman Fire-Rescue determined that it was an electrical issue that started the fire in a side hallway near the back of the building. The fire travelled along the fire floor toward Bean Me Up coffee and moved upward from there. Wolverine Comics, which sits adjacent to the coffee shop, was not touched by the flames.

Instead, much of the damage to Wolverine Comics was from water and smoke damage. While about 20 percent of their inventory — including nearly 1,000 comics — was lost due to water damage, the rest was salvageable. 

Instantly we felt better (when we got inside), because we were thinking everything was gone," Ward said. "As you can see, there was smoke damage on everything, but it wasn't destroyed."

Earlier this week, the comic shop advertised that it would be selling much of its remaining stock in what proved to be a literal fire sale. For the three day event, which will extend through Saturday, Ward and her husband moved their inventory to what was the storefront for Sandi's Boutique at the front of the building.

The storefront was lit by sunlight through the front windows when Wolverine temporarily reopened Thursday. While Sandi's didn't appear to take any direct fire damage, the telltale sign of the blaze were clear. Lines of chemicals on the walls appeared to be from the firefighting efforts while a lighter spot on the wooden floor marked where a display rack say, shielding the floor from the smoke. The smell of the long since burned wood still filled the space.

A display of comics sits out during a fire sale at Wolverine Comics in Sherman Thursday. The comic shop is raising money to relocate following a fire at Kelly Square in October.

Ward said she, her husband and their merchandise were  fortunate in part due to the care that they took with their product. As would any serious comic fan, the couple stored most of their comics in plastic sleeves with a cardboard backing. This ultimately prevented the comics from taking the brunt of the smoke.

Through the sale, Ward said she hopes to raise enough capital to begin looking for a new location while Kelly Square is repaired. She said she has considered applying for financial assistance with the city, but said this was the first step. In early December, Specs in the City was awarded about $8,000 by Sherman to assist it in relocating following the fire.

"We don't have the capital to start over," Ward said. "We put all of our capital into opening the first time. We are hoping if we can sell all of this stuff even at half off for a big boost."