Nostalgic Books and Comics
When a first time customer enters Nostalgic Books and Comics in San Gabriel, owner Peter Mellini is often asked, “What should I read?” He responds with “What is your favorite movie?” For a “When Harry Met Sally” fan, he might recommend the Saga series; for a “Good Will Hunting” fan, the “Iron Heart” heroine. And for comic enthusiasts, his store has a little bit of everything.
Walking into the shop, customers are greeted by the soft spoken Mellini and surrounded by shelves filled with the latest comics, cardboard boxes holding particular series of the past, artwork on the walls, and collectible figurines under display cases. Mellini enjoys discussing comics in depth with customers who come in.
“I really enjoy comic books; it’s always been an escape,” Mellini said. “You can just sit there and follow along.”
For Nostalgic Books and Comics, Wednesdays are the busiest, the day a new shipment arrives. Regulars visit and eagerly flip through the latest editions of their favorite series.
Holding 22 sleeved comic books in his hand, John Nguyen comes to Nostalgic on a weekly basis.
“I’ve been reading [comic books] as a little kid, but then I picked it up again since last year,” Nguyen said. “Usually, I would buy one to five every once in awhile, but now that I’m working a little more, and making a little more now, anything I want to look at, I just pick it up.”
Roger Lozano of Rosemead recently started reading the “Old Man Hawkeye” series, but his favorite is “The Incredible Hulk.” Visiting Nostalgic every two to three weeks, Lozano spends an average of two hours looking around.
“I take my time when I read comic books,” he said. “I like to enjoy each page, look at the artwork. If it has a good story line going on, I really want to absorb it.”
People often have a misconception about comic books. “They think it’s still for kids, or for geeks who are into saving these,” said Lozano, who was visiting the store with his grandson. “I’m not really a geek or anything — I just retired, so I’m just enjoying the comic book itself.”
Comic books are often thought of as paper-thin packets, biographies of superheroes, they are not restricted to only this. Comic book genres range from romance to horror, comedies to sci-fi, with some stories containing underlying conversations of social issues, such as discrimination or immigration, Mellini said.
Throughout his life, Mellini has worked at a number of comic book stores. Once the last shop he worked at–Comic Galaxy in Monterey Park–closed, Mellini settled into a range of various jobs. At one point, Mellini even sold comics out of the trunk of his car.
When Mellini was laid off from an office job a week before Christmas, he decided to steer into the direction of comic books once again. Soon after, Mellini met Try Lam, the original owner of Nostalgic Books and Comics. “It was just good timing,” Mellini said.
In August 2010, when the rent got too high in Alhambra, Lam moved Nostalgic to its current location in San Gabriel. There were growing pains in the beginning of the move, but being in between two high schools–Gabrielino and San Gabriel–helped. Customers from the store’s original location would visit the shop, too.
Mellini worked with Lam a year and a half before buying Nostalgic Books and Comics from him in September 2011. “I always wanted to own a comic book store–that was my goal for years,” Mellini said.
The comic book scene in the Alhambra area is not exactly new. There have been a number of stores that have opened and closed nearby. In addition to Nostalgic Books and Comics and Comic Cellar on Main Street, Alhambra, there are several comic book events that are soon to come to the area.
The City of San Gabriel will be hosting FairviewCon, a superhero, comic book themed block party on August 2, 2018 at the Fairview Village. Comic vendors, comic artists, food trucks and live entertainment will be present for the second year of this event.
For a third year, Mellini with his childhood friends is organizing the East LA Comic and Pop Culture Expo, which will have free admission. Although there has been no real profit in previous years of the event, “getting a show in our neighborhood” is what Mellini enjoys about throwing East LA C.A.P.E.
Since May, the Alhambra Civic Center Library has been offering a free comic book reading service known as Hoopla. By providing a valid library card when creating a Hoopla account, users can borrow and read up to five comic books a month online, including popular titles like “Black Panther” and not-so mainstream works, such as “Paper Girls.”
Though the library does not have any traditional, tangible comic books on its shelves, they offer a number of different manga (Japanese comic books) and graphic novels to patrons.
Mellini encourages people to try out comic books and believes that there is a comic book for everybody, “Whatever you’re into, there’s something there for you.”
Nostalgic Books and Comics is open seven days a week from noon to 7 p.m. and from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Contact them at [email protected] and visit www.nostalgicbooksandcomics.com for more information.
Daniel Flores is an Alhambra Source summer intern and a rising junior at Alhambra High School.
Updated on Wednesday, July 11 at 12:54 p.m. with correct store hours