July will mark 20 years since owners Curtis Sullivan and Steve Fodale founded Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor. With their second store in Grand Rapids, and a new Vault scheduled to open in Detroit on May 2, the Vault continues to grow deeper and draw more readers into their unique emporium, which sells comics and “stuff”.
Twenty years is a long time for a comic book store to survive in an age when stores seem to be here one minute and gone the next. What sets Vault of Midnight apart from other comic book shops? “It’s all inclusive. There’s something for everybody,” said Nick Yribar, co-owner along with Sullivan and Fodale. “We want everyone to read comics. We look at it like it’s a book store just like any other store.”
Taking a chance on Main Street
Vault of Midnight opened in 1996 on Ashley St. For Sullivan and Fodale, it was touch and go for the first eight years in business. “We had a lot of passion, but didn’t really know a lot about running a business,” said Sullivan. “We had a hard time securing a location and struggled with visibility.” They bounced around, moving to Liberty St., before finding a home on Main St. “Our landlords (Steve and Shelly Kelly) have been great,” said Sullivan. “They could have rented the building to anyone, but they took a chance on us.” With the prime location, the visibility and foot traffic have been a huge boost for sales.
A new Vault of Midnight location in Detroit is set to open in early May at 1226 Library St. “We start from scratch with each store. Each one is completely different and will have its own look and layout,” said Yribar.
Stuffed grilled cheese toys and more
Not only does Vault of Midnight have a wide range of comics, but as their sign and business cards also say, they have “stuff”, which means all kinds of strange and unusual toys. “Our stuffed section is second to none. We have stuffed grilled cheeses, stuffed pizzas, stuffed hamburgers, and stuffed tacos – these soft pillow-like creations are called plushies,” said Sullivan. “They’re hysterical, and we sell a lot of them.”
“Our small batch goofball toys are very popular,” added Yribar. “There’s no other store in Ann Arbor that sells some of this stuff.”
There is, as expected, a huge selection of new, vintage, and local comics to choose from. Some of the best selling comics are classic mainstays like Batman, or whatever superhero movie is hot at the moment. “We always see a spike of popularity with whatever is the new comic book movie out at the time,” said Sullivan. “Deadpool is huge right now.”
Free comic book day
The first Saturday in May is “free comic book day,” and Vault of Midnight is one of several comic book stores that give away up to three free comics to expand the comic book reading horizon. Nearly seven million full-issue comics are given away nationwide for free comic book day. Most of the free comics are all-age friendly. The idea is that publishers give back to the hardcore comic book fans while also building an interest in a new comic those readers might not pick up otherwise. The free comic books are available all day (while supplies last), and Yribar and Sullivan said that there were still a few comic books left at closing time last year.
Lines can wrap around the corner, but Sullivan says that, “Even waiting in line is a blast! We have trivia and give away prizes while people are waiting.” Street performers entertain the crowd, and last year Zingerman’s gave out samples of a candy bar that they made in partnership with Vault of Midnight, called the “Malt of Midnight”.
Vault of Midnight is open from 10am-10pm
Monday-Saturday and 11am-8pm on Sunday.
219 S. Main St. | 734-998-1413.
For a full list of events, visit vaultofmidnight.com