Venerable Omaha Comics Shop Damaged By Fire

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the building housing Dragon’s Lair Comics and Treasure Mart Collectibles sustained nearly $300,000 in fire damage Sunday morning.

The blaze began about 10 a.m. and required more than three hours to extinguish. No serious injuries were reported, but an Omaha firefighter was treated for a knee injury at a local hospital and released.

The fire began in the collectibles store and followed a pipe up into the attic, Battalion Chief Tim McCaw said. The cause of the fire still is under investigation.

Andrew King, who owns the building and operates Treasure Mart Collectibles, said he was glad no tenants were injured.

“I hardly know what to say, because it’s really unbelievable,” said King, who acquired the building 22 years ago. “We had a lot of good stuff in there. Not anymore.”

While the tenants in the second floor apartments all escaped unharmed, the building was declared a complete loss on Monday.  Crews battled the two-alarm fire for hours, pouring water into the building after fireman evacuated at 11 AM.  The eastern half is completely gutted, while the comics shop sustained smoke and water damage.

Robert “Bob” Gellner, owner of Dragon’s Lair, posted to the chain’s Facebook page:

We would like to thank everyone for your gracious thoughts and support. While we are dealing with the smoke and water damages we will be changing our Millard store hours to match our Blondo store hours which will be Monday through Saturday 9am – 9pm. If your game group meets at Blondo please call so we can accommodate your group at the Millard Store. Thank you again!

A fire is possibly the worst disaster for any business, especially for a comics shop.  Fire, smoke, water… it’s a horrible combination.  “Bob” (seriously, that’s the only name I knew until I read today’s article) started that store in November 1975, making it one of the oldest comics shops in the country. Omaha’s amazing comics shop diversity can be traced back to Dragon’s Lair.  His employees started their own shops, and the employees of those shops did the same.  I can remember the store calling other shops, seeking to trade stock which had sold out.  Chris Ware shopped here as a kid.  It was the only comics shop in Omaha, sharing the collector’s market with Star Realm, a science fiction bookstore located in La Vista, until the late 80s.

Among my friends, I first knew of it because he sold the clear “crystal” Dungeons & Dragons dice.  Me, a comics nerd, made my first trek, (uphill, both ways) on a frigid Saturday morning in January 1985.  Having previously purchased comics from bookstore spinner racks, what I discovered was revelatory, emphasis on “REVEL”!  First there was the realization that comics shops received their comics three weeks before the newsstands!  Then there were the back issue bins!  The collectible cards behind the registers!  My people!

From January 1985 until February 1994, Dragon’s Lair was my local comics shop.  The store was clean, carpeted, and offered some amazing back issues.  $1 MAD magazines dating back to the 1950s!  Marvel Tales and other reprint titles from the late 1960s!  A first printing of Bone #1 (before the first collection) at near cover price!  A wide selection of comics, which helped me transition from Marvel to DC, Eclipse, Dark Horse, Eagle…  And next door was Mary’s Book Exchange, a used bookstore which fed my non-comics desires.  Later, it was transformed into Treasure Mart Collectibles, half of the store filled to the rafters with display cases of tchotchkes, the other half full of books.

Eventually, the pest control business next door relocated, and Bob was able to double the size of his original store, offering an event space and room for graphic novels.  By that time, I had circumnavigated the globe in 1994 and relocated to Washington, DC.  But upon my return, I gave Bob a “going away” present… in New Zealand I had found back issues of 2000 A.D. featuring the earliest comics writing of Neil Gaiman.  In Germany, I managed to get them signed by Neil himself (who was overshadowed by Don Rosa), and gave Bob a duplicate from my stash.

Every time I return to Omaha, I always find time to visit the store.  Bob remembers me, and is usually in good spirits, even though he has to deal with the vagaries of the comics industry.  I plan to return in April for my father’s 85th birthday.  I definitely plan to stop by, no matter where the stores might be located!  I always find something interesting, and I always feel welcome.  What more could a comics collector want?

We’ll keep you posted with updates.  Omaha’s geek community is offering the support and assistance that is typical of the Midwest:  food, elbow grease, possible store fronts…  In the meantime, if you’re near Omaha, stop by their Millard store.

Comments

  1. Torsten Adair says:

    http://www.omaha.com/article/20140228/GO/140228772#.UxDg5-M7t8E

    “Legend Comics & Coffee co-owner David DeMarco was also a child of Dragon’s Lair. He begged his parents to take him to the shop, which at the time was the only place to go if you had DeMarco’s interests: Magic: the Gathering and other role-playing games.

    DeMarco — whose shop at 5207 Leavenworth St. is the newest comic book shop in town — said Dragon’s Lair helped jumpstart Omaha’s “amazing comic book community.”

    “For a town like Omaha, which isn’t small but also isn’t gigantic,” DeMarco said, “we have about as many comic shops as L.A. That’s a testament to the fans.””

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  1. […] we reported a month ago, the Dragon’s Lair in Omaha, Nebraska, had occupied the same building since 1976, until a […]

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