Paula E. Kirman
Variant Edition first opened its doors on May 2, 2015. In fact, by the time many of you read this, the store will have celebrated its fifth anniversary.
Co-owned by Danica LeBlanc and Brandon Schatz, Variant Edition carries a wide variety of comics and graphic novels, including mainstream titles, independently published and alternative selections, and work from local authors. The duo’s hard work and attention to customer service and their community is paying off. In fact, the shop won the Harry Kramer Award for Outstanding Comic Book Retailer in Canada, at the 2019 Shuster Awards (Canada’s national award recognizing outstanding achievement in the creation of comic books, graphic novels, and webcomics).
However, Variant Edition was not always located in the Stony Plain Road Area as it is today (10132 151 Street, to be precise). “For the first year and a half, we were located in the 124th Street area with a third partner who did gaming. At that point, due to differing business philosophies, we split the business, and moved our comics and graphic novels operation to the Stony Plain Road area,” LeBlanc explains.
Why did the duo choose Stony Plain Road? “We did this for a couple of reasons – the first was the fact that the LRT was coming through. Many saw this as a hinderance, but we saw it as a boon, and we still do. Increased access to the area can only be a good thing in the long term, despite shorter term pains,” says LeBlanc. “The second was the fact that the west end had lost its comic shop when another store closed in West Edmonton Mall, and we could see a need.”
LeBlanc explains that business practises were already in place that are helping Variant Edition keep doing business during COVID-19. “Due to our general business philosophy, we didn’t have to change much in order to deal with the current COVID-19 crisis. Late last year, we launched an online store that people could use to order items through, and we’ve been providing in city delivery to low mobility customers (and folks without the time or means to get to the store) for over two years now,” she says.
“We also spent the time building a strong, supportive community around the business through all sorts of outreach, including twice-yearly community clothing swaps, reading nights for introverts, hosting podcast meet ups, among various other initiatives. While these didn’t make us money in the moment, they helped us build something unshakable that has seen our business continue to cover all our fixed costs and then some, during this crisis.”
LeBlanc cites the “the unshakable sense of community” as the best part about doing business in the Stony Plain Road area. “The people who live and shop in the area are fiercely loyal, and often take offence to the area’s so-called ‘bad reputation.’ Almost because of this, there is a great hunger to see the area develop and bloom into Edmonton’s next great hub of local businesses. We feel that from members of this community,” she says.
“The Stony Plain Road area is probably one of Edmonton’s best-kept secrets, but the time has come to share that secret with more people – and we can do that by building our community. We’re hoping that more businesses can reach out to one another and find common goals and events that will help build even more pride among our customers and everyone living in the area. We intend to be a part of that for many, many years to come.”
Learn more about Variant Edition, and order online at: variantedmonton.com