On the intersection of Olive Street and Broadway, nestled beside a local cocktail bar, the shop Books with Pictures offers an inclusive twist for comic book lovers.
Inside the brick building with a green roof and tall windows, visitors are greeted with a warm welcome from owner Andréa Gilroy and store manager Finlay Louden.
Gilroy has always loved comic books. In 2015, she graduated from UO with a Ph.D. in comparative literature, where she studied and taught the history of comics and how the content reflects identity.
Aside from her passion for the content, Gilroy said that comic book shops often have a reputation for catering to one group — whether they deserve it or not — which can make them unapproachable to general audiences.
"That kind of thing is not only alienating to people who aren't comics fans but want to get into comics,” she said. “It's especially alienating to women, People of Color, LGBTQ folks on top of it."
This inspired Gilroy to create a shop that was not only inclusive but a community-focused hub for all walks of life: somewhere that could host events, book clubs and discussions.
She wanted to "have lots of nights where geeks and nerds could kind of come together and hang out and talk about things.”
“I also wanted to see a place that was really intentionally open and inviting to people who weren't necessarily already sort of comics geeks,” Gilroy said.
The Eugene shop is a sister shop to the company in Portland. They share a name, because they share many of the same ideas, such as their mission to harvest and foster a welcoming space for anyone interested in comics, no matter their identity or knowledge level.
Books with Pictures Eugene cut its opening ribbon in March 2020, but after only two weeks the store had to close its doors for eight weeks due to COVID-19 guidelines that hammered down on Eugene’s local businesses. Yet, the store adapted by offering online sales, pickups and deliveries.
Despite the social distancing restrictions, they still created a community, Gilroy said.
Although they faced many challenges in the first year since opening, Gilroy said it was a humbling experience.
"People have responded in a lot of really amazing ways. The fact that people continue to find us and people continue to tell their friends," she said. "We continue to grow; it's really moving."
The shop collaborates with local artists and authors who produce zines, books, stickers, pins or prints and they hope to host in-house events like book clubs, drink and draw events and Dungeons and Dragons game nights soon.
The comic book selection stands from floor to ceiling and offers "a little bit of everything" with genres like youth, manga, fiction, nonfiction and superheroes, among others. Gilroy prioritizes marginalized voices such as People of Color, women authors and LGBTQ+ people when curating the store's stock.
The two employees are happy to guide customers through their vast selection and have an enthusiastic and educational approach to customer service, Gilroy said. This might be the perfect solution for individuals who are intrigued by comic books but don’t know where to start.
Besides the store’s large selection, Books with Pictures offers a place for inclusivity and shows that comic book stores are for everyone.
“Some people think that comics are a specific thing or that comics can only tell a specific kind of story, and that's just really not true,” Gilroy said. “If you like stories, there's probably a comic out there that might appeal to you. It's a really powerful and interesting storytelling medium. That's what excites me most about it. That's why I love it so much.”