By Colin Walsh
There is an unassuming low-slung building under a pitched roof mid block on E street between 2nd and 3rd in Davis CA. The building is set back from the street and set further into the building is a door to another world. Through that door is a den of untold treasures: comic books, new and used, even classic and hard to find games; movie collection of titles that may not be suggested to you on Netflix; vinyl albums, card games, and a range of Americana and pop culture ephemera. The real treasure though is the store itself.
Davis is lucky to have individual entrepreneurs like Daniel Urazandi who are willing to buck the trend of corporate homogeneity and offer a passionate personal keenly cultivated collection of goods. As a result, there may not be another store like Bizarro World anywhere.
Since 1991 Bizarro World has been run by Dan in 4 separate Davis locations. Dan recently took a few minutes to tell us more about the unique resource he provides the Davis community.
What is the Story of Bizarro World? What has the Journey been from founding to now?
In the beginning I just sold comic books but soon new related items or a demand for other items prompted me to expand selection. Cards, toys, board games, video games, vinyl records, sci-fi books and DVDs all were added to make BW the diverse pile of odd ends it is. Often these lines were added according to outside forces--when other stores closed I tried to pick up their markets in movies, LPs, books, board games--but I never wanted to add anything I'm not interested in personally. Selling things I don't like is too much like work.
We have had four different locations, always in downtown. A few of our customers have been to them all. The current space is the most comfortable and suits us best.
We had two locations at one time for a while when I bought out the Woodland comic and game store and operated it for a few years. It didn't last and the hassle sated my desire for that type of expansion.
In 27 years a lot changes but some things remain. I try to focus on perennial products and methods that stand the test of time but we sell fad items and have to learn on the fly as well. I think of myself as a pop culture archaeologist and my shop as a place to explore both current and nostalgic aspects of our shared American experience. You know, a weird place full of old junk!
Who runs the store today?
We have gone generational! It's myself and my son Xavier.
What motivated you to start the Store?
I had a few jobs and found I was unemployable, so I had to go into business for myself. I had always liked comic books and they were one of the few things that I had some expertise in so I sold my collection at shows and borrowed my Dad's car and started selling comics from the trunk. It grew from there and I haven't had to ask for a job since.
Who are your customers?
Almost anyone. Since we have a diverse product line and a central location we see all kinds of people come through. Old stereotypes that comics or comic stores are just for kids, or nerds or males are being eroded and the most popular entertainment in the world now comes from the realms of fantasy, science fiction and superheroes so everyone has a reference for what we sell.
Comic books and Gaming cards (Magic, Pokemon, etc) are our biggest money makers. Board Games do well especially around Christmastime and a lot of people are playing and collecting old records and vintage video games right now. I guess it's a good thing I brought in those other lines.
What unique things do you offer the Davis community?
I don't think there is a place akin to Bizarro World anywhere. Because it grew organically under my individual guidance BW is truly unique and a necessary counter to the general homogenization and standardization of America and American retail. Many people tell me across the counter that they are grateful to have this access to whatever it is they just bought. Others say that there isn't a store "like this" in their hometown. This is the trend we are bucking. Decades ago franchises made it possible to cross the United States without eating in a restaurant that didn't exist where you came from. The big fish eat the little fish and we all eat the same thing. I thought this was a drag and now it has happened to retail. There should be balance between a shared American experience and individual regional differences. The regional side is losing ground most places but not here. As long as people keep shopping with us we will keep the uniqueness of Bizarro World in Davis for folks who like a little flavor in their food, in their community and in their lives.
Why shop in a brick and mortar store and not on line?
Shopping is not just exchanging money for goods. It is an experience. We will miss it if it goes. Walking around, looking in windows, conversing with others, running into people and things we weren't looking for but were glad to see, getting advice from knowledgeable staff--these are all part of the hands-on, get out and go somewhere shopping experience not the screen staring one. We are increasingly atomized and community is breaking down. A physical store is part of any community--think of a town and one of the first things you will picture are the shops there. Shops that provide jobs, support Little League, are owned by people in the town who keep their money in local banks and spend it at other local businesses. Local stores provide an avenue to a middle-class lifestyle for their proprietors, for people we know. Shopping online sometimes seems like it keeps some money in your pocket but it always takes money away from the community as a whole.
What do you see as the future of Bizarro World?
I have superpowers but precognition is not one of them. I am happy and proud that my son has taken an interest in the family business. If he stays here he will know all the joys and tribulations I have. Is there a future for independent retail? For locally owned small businesses? For downtown? There are naysayers and negative indicators but there are people in my shop on both sides of the counter yesterday, today and tomorrow who say yes. As long as real people want to go to real places for real things and to interact with real people instead of computers, robots, drones, phones, ATMs or people who are trained to act like them I see a future.
223 E St Davis CA
facebook: Bizarro World