open book store

Year-old Kensington comic book store and coffeehouse getting attention

Since Ariell Johnson opened her comic book store and coffee shop in Kensington in December 2015, she has taken the world by Storm.

In fact, her childhood fascination with Storm, the X-Men superheroine, led her to comic book and sci-fi fantasy geek fandom in the first place, she said.

She has been profiled on ABC News, CNN Money, and MSNBC, not to mention various nerd and geek websites, as the first African American woman to open a comic book store on the East Coast.

And in November, she was depicted on a variant cover of the Invincible Iron Man No. 1 comic book, along with Riri Williams, the 15-year-old African American superhero character known as Ironheart.

Storm “was the first black woman superhero I ever saw,” Johnson, 33, said at her shop, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, 2578 Frankford Ave.

“In addition, she was a powerhouse; she was one of the most powerful mutants in the X-Men universe. She controlled the very elements. She wasn’t a sidekick. She was the main event, which was exciting.”

Johnson said all the attention has been good for business.

“I think we’re doing well. We’ve had a very strong first year, and an untraditional first year, with all the hubbub around the shop,” she said.

Diversity in comic books has been met with some backlash from mostly male fans who assert on YouTube videos that characters should not be suddenly changed to black or gay. Some have called it pandering to attract more women and people of color to comics.

Johnson has not hesitated to speak out about the importance of the comic book world becoming more inclusive.

That means having characters who represent everyone - black, white, Latino, Asian, and people of all religions and sexual identities.

She makes sure to carry books written by and for women and people of color.

Johnson said people like them as heroes in fantasy and science fiction can empower young readers.

“When young girls come in here and know that a woman owns the shop, a black woman owns the shop, and they can see titles where girls are the heroes and not just the love interests or the sidekick … when they see women and girls taking the lead in things, that’s really powerful,” she said.

Since word of Johnson’s success got around, celebrity comic book writers have visited Amalgam.

The store was packed a couple of months ago when Ta-Nehisi Coates came for a book signing to accompany the release of a new comic in his Marvel series Black Panther.

She has also welcomed Greg Pak, author of X-Treme X-Men and other titles, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who coauthored a graphic novel, March.

Amalgam is spacious and colorful, with a red couch at the front window and blue and yellow armchairs nearby. In fact, it’s like entering a live comic strip tableau.

Small round tables have comic book logos: symbols for ThunderCat, Captain America, and Spider-Man.

Johnson said she became enamored of superheroes while watching television cartoon shows as a child.

“I’ve always liked shows about super powers,” she said. “I grew up watching ThunderCats, He-Man and She-Ra. But none of those shows had any black characters featured.”

When she was about 11, she saw herself in the character Storm in X-Men cartoons.

“In addition to being black and a woman, she had dark skin. The only thing that didn’t look like me was that she had white hair and blue eyes.”

A Baltimore native, Johnson came to Philadelphia to attend Temple University and earned an accounting degree there in 2005.

It took a decade of working for other people, first in retail and later as an accountant, before she decided to fulfill her dream.

Inside Amalgam the other day, Sam Woods Thomas, the commercial corridor coordinator for New Kensington Community Development Corp., said the coffee shop was the only one in the neighborhood.

Still, he said, things are looking up, with a new apartment development in the next block that people are comparing to the Piazza in Northern Liberties.

But he said it’s small businesses like Johnson’s that are key.

“They bring life back to the block,” Thomas said.

When entrepreneur Ariell Johnson opened her comic book store and coffee shop in Kensington, Pennsylvania back in December 2015, it became an instant hit both locally and nationally. 

Being hailed as the first African American woman to open a comic book store on the east coast

she immediately caught the attention of ABC News, CNN Money, MSNBC, and tons of other web sites and blogs.

“When young girls come in here and know that a woman owns the shop, a black woman owns the shop, and they can see titles where girls are the heroes and not just the love interests or the sidekick… when they see women and girls taking the lead in things, that’s really powerful.”

She’s The Boss

#BlackGirlMagic #BlackExcellence 

Selfixhe Ciu was an Albanian writer and the first Albanian woman writer to ever publish literature in Albania. On 28 November 1935, when she was 17, Selfixhe Ciu published under the plume name Kolombja, a poem on the Populli newspaper. She was studying in Florence, Italy, when the Italian invasion of Albania occurred, in 1939. She then returned to Albania with her husband, Xhemal Broja, and opened with him a book store in Shkodër. She joined the ranks of the Communist Party of Albania, along Drita Kosturi and Nexhmije Hoxha, and was one of the organizers of an illegal antifascist demonstration in February 22, 1942. For that she was arrested and condemned to death, but then later released. After World War II, in 1947, she was imprisoned, then exiled by the communist communist regime. Her husband, Xhemal Broja, followed her into internment. In 1998 Ciu published her memories, as well as poetry and other publications, into a book, entitled Tallazet e jetes (English: Winds of life). She died in 2003.


10/18 // Book of the Damned // Calm Before the Storm

“But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be“

Opales Emporium ~

I’m so excited. Me and my mother have been dwelling on the idea of opening a book/ metaphysical store for a very long time. We may be doing it sorta soon hopefully! We have been looking at properties for the store and came up with a name for it. We decided we may name it Opales Emporium , since me and my sisters birthstones are opal. Ah I hope this will work out. Owning a bookstore is one of my biggest goals.


It’s been eight years since Lisa Simpson got to meet Dan Clowes (”Husbands and Knives”, Season 19, episode 7, airdate November 18, 2007) and tell him:

“I really identified with the girls in Ghost World. They made me feel like I wasn’t so alone.”

We totally feel the same way  <3

A summary for those who haven’t seen the episode: Comic Book Guy goes out of business because an alternative comic book store opens across the street, providing a better and cooler service to the kids of Springfield. The Simpsons attend an in-store signing with Maus author Art Spiegelman,Watchmen author and notorious recluse Alan Moore, and Daniel Clowes, creator of Ghost World

Watch a clip here:

I want to open a 24/7 book store & cafe. The book store would have a loaner program for people who can’t afford to buy books and there’d be used books for people who can’t afford them new. The cafe would have coffee, tea, maybe wine, and “real food” like eggs and waffles and burgers, but also ice cream and shakes and cookies (because big plot twists and major character deaths sometimes require immediate application of comfort food).

The store would also do deliveries in case it’s way late and the buses aren’t running or don’t have the car (or just don’t have the spoons) or you’re otherwise unable to get out to us.

Yeah, this would be a good thing.

This is why I wish I had money, so I could do things like this.


I forgot to mention the numerous comfy couches and fluffy blankets and bean bag chairs that would be spread around the place.


Cristina had found her way to Italy with the twins. It hurt her every day to not know where her husband was, or even if he was dead or alive. Being a mother on her own was difficult, but she managed since the twins brought her an incredible amount of joy. She opened a little book store in a busy part of the city and spent a lot of her time there with the kids. She settled into her less than perfect life the best she could.

One Moore Bookstore, a small shopfront on a busy street in downtown Monrovia, represents many firsts. Though there are stores here that sell text books, this is the first selling books purely for reading pleasure. And its owners publish some of the only books aimed at Liberian children. The bookstore is a rare place where kids might hear a story read to them just for fun.

In this poor West African nation wracked by war, poverty and most recently Ebola, reading is not something people generally do for pleasure. Kids read when required in school, but Liberia still has one of the world’s highest rates of illiteracy.

That will all change if the owner of One Moore Bookstore has her way. Wayétu Moore, 30, is a Brooklyn-based author who fled Liberia with her family when she was 5. She opened this book store here last year. And she’s been publishing books for Liberian children since 2011.

The Former Refugee Behind One of Liberia’s Few Bookstores, Where Children Can Read About Themselves