Gloria and John Cruz at Cruzin' Thru Comics. Dan Watson/The Signal

Cruzin’ Thru Comics: How a hobby became a business

Though John Cruz wasn’t big into comic books as a kid, he certainly is now. So much so that he recently opened Cruzin’ Thru Comics in Canyon Country.

“I was looking for some sort of side business, just something I could do as a hobby, and so I started buying comics at the swap meets,” he said, adding that he began to realize it could be lucrative when a comic book he’d purchased for $1 sold for $50.

He started off small, selling comics online before he and his wife Gloria began traveling to conventions across California.

That was 10 years ago. Since then, as conventions have become more expensive, they decided to open a store of their own.

“I think what sets us apart is we’re actually a comics store,” John said. “Most comic book stores don’t concentrate on just comic books … they do toys or action figures and the comics are sort of just like a side thing, whereas we’re trying to be an old-fashioned comic store.”

Customer James Payfer goes through a box of vintage back issue comics at Cruzin’ Thru Comics in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

The shop not only carries modern comics, but also vintage books going all the way back to the Golden Age and the 1940s and 1950s.

“There are books that are just incredible parts of history, and it’s just amazing to see,” he added. “Those come around every blue moon. I’ve found a few good ones from time to time, but the hunt is the fun part.”

The store, which is filled with boxes of comics for customers to sift through, represents only about half of Cruz’s inventory.

“We’re going to constantly be bringing in more comic books,” he said, adding that it was another big reason for opening the store.

Cruz is also a collector himself, so he truly appreciates the comics and understands a collector’s perspective.

“I still have a lot of comics at home, and I want to bring them to the store, but I don’t want to sell them,” he said.

“He gives it a day in the shop, and then it doesn’t sell and he’s like, ‘OK then, I’m taking it back,’” Gloria added, chuckling.

John Cruz displays a Stan Lee autographed poster in front of hundreds of new and vintage comics, magazines, action figures and art prints at Cruzin’ Thru Comics in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

As an online seller, he knows the difficulties a brick-and-mortar shop can have, but he’s looking forward to giving his customers a safe space to get together.

“For me, it’s fun,” John said. “It was just a hobby, but it’s our business now, too, and it grew to the point where it’s part of our income.”

John’s been a technician with AT&T for 20 years and still works full-time, so Gloria mans the shop during the week.

“He enjoys it, and I’m kind of along for the ride,” she said, jokingly. “It’s fun though … Everyone has different tastes in books, and the back issues we have are harder to find, so people come in with lists of things they’re missing to get a whole series they’re working on. They just sit there for hours, and it’s fun to watch them start stacking and stacking them when they find something they’re looking for.”

John Cruz helps customer James Payfer with the purchase of his vintage comics at Cruzin’ Thru Comics in Santa Clarita. Dan Watson/The Signal

The shop is slowly building its customer base up, and has already begun to acquire some regulars. “It’s nice — we’re already building a relationship with them now,” Gloria said, adding that now they can help those customers search for what they’re missing as they’ve formed relationships with many of their fellow dealers across Southern California.

“We all know each other, so we can really get comics from all kinds of places,” John added. “It’s funny because a lot of us dealers wind up selling books to each other.”

John’s favorite part though? Never knowing what’s going to walk through the door next — “Somebody could come in with an incredible collection.”

“It’s really satisfying when you have customers come in and are just as passionate as you are,” he added.

Cruzin’ Thru Comics is open seven days a week and is located at 17812 Sierra Highway, Unit D, in Canyon Country. For more information, visit facebook.com/CruzinThruComics or call 661-210-7746.

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