Around since the 80s, Annex Comics flourishes in 2012, due in large part to the way in which owner Wayne Quackenbush took the social media bull by the horns to promote the fine (and funny) art of comic books.
Here’s Part I of our two-part interview.
NIM: Wayne Quackenbush, I can’t think of a better name to stick onto a Web domain than Quackenbush, but you’re Annex Comics. How long has the Annex been around?
WQ: I started working at the Annex in 1994, and bought it from the owner in 1998. I had an extensive background in retail, having managed several photo-processing and video stores in NYC.
NIM: What’s photo processing? Just kidding. So you’re a savvy retailer who likes new media. Are you a wave-rider in your business, or does the Annex rely on your fan base/repeat customers for its success?
WQ: We’ve ridden through fads over the years, made a lot of changes and experimented with product as much as possible. I introduced video sales and rentals, for instance. The Annex was the first store in the state to go all DVD, and now we have dinosaur status because we’re the last store in Rhode Island to offer DVD rentals.
NIM: That’s very cool, Wayne. I miss the excitement of going to a place and renting something. Speaking of dinosaurs, a few businesses still have yet to embrace social media as a genius marketing tool. But you have. Tell us how you market Annex these days, and how that’s different from before.
WQ: I used to run occasional ads in the local papers, I put up flyers for events and got interviewed in local magazines and on public access TV. Word-of-mouth was and is most effective.
NIM: And what’s faster at getting words out of mouths than Facebook? Your store has quite the presence there. You have a Facebook page for your store, and a Web page for Annex Art Society.
NIM: Before I started following (stalking?!!) you on Facebook, I thought of your clientele as the hipster/nerd/geek squad. Am I on- or off-base?
WQ: My customer base fits the categories named but there’s more. A general description would be male, college educated, mostly in their 20s and 30s.
NIM: How to you market to the Kids who know everything and think everything’s “whatever”?
WQ: I always try to shock and amaze. The store markets a sense of wonder.
NIM: What’s shocking or amazing at the Annex these days?
WQ: I think people would be surprised at the inroads we’ve achieved in promoting local artists via Facebook through our daily artistic challenges, where artists all over the world participate, and our efforts to encourage creativity, especially in young people.
NIM: How do you reach the young’uns?
WQ: The Annex showcases at least 30 artists a year in our galleries. I work with local high schools in artistic intern programs and I teach a drawing class in the store every Saturday morning.
NIM: Well it must be fun, if people are getting anyone under 80 out of bed Saturday mornings! I think that’s great.
NIM: It takes a lot of effort to man those contests because they are so popular! And social media gives people lots of access to your wall. Why has the response to these contests been so great and how do you keep up with them?
WQ: Personally, the daily Art Challenge is a kind of creative calisthenics, an exercise to keep my brain hopping. I know a few others feel the same way. Plus, humans are social creatures, and it’s extremely gratifying to connect in this way and share images and ideas.
NIM: Isn’t that the beauty of social media? It allows you to actually have fun while you promote your business and grow your numbers. And, it gets people in your door who might otherwise just have walked by, had they not seen the quality of the art that’s being posted on your timeline.