Alan LaMont, the owner of Ballard's The Grumpy Old Man's Comics, Art, and Collectibles doesn't come across as a grumpy old man. He's downright chipper, in fact, and he's got the youthful vigor and charm of someone who's finally living a life he's been dreaming about for decades.
After years "working in corporate America" in Rochester New York and dreaming of the Pacific Northwest, LaMont finally moved to Seattle on Labor Day of 2017. He brought his enormous, high-quality comics collection - about 200 boxes - along with him, and he set about fulfilling another longtime dream: opening a comic shop/art gallery. LaMont has some experience working in a gallery, and he's attended comics conventions his whole life, but he'd never owned a space before. "I didn't want to work for a company anymore," LaMont says, "so I thought I'd combine the two things that I love." The store officially opened on the day after Thanksgiving.
LaMont is an artist. He paints as a hobby, but he has primarily worked in linocut art since he was 12. (A whole wall at Grumpy Old Man's Comics displays his work for sale.) He likes the way linocut changes his thought process: in order to create good prints "you have to think mirrored and positive-to-negative." It took him a long time to get into the mindset of a linocut artist, but now "I have a clear thought process."
That explains the gallery part, but why a comic book store? "I learned how to read on comics," LaMont explains. His grandmother was a teacher, and when she noticed his love of superhero cartoons, she bought him a batch of comics and helped him work through them. "She had me reading at four years of age," LaMont says. He's been reading comics ever since.
Grumpy Old Man's Comics is located right off Market Street. The shop is split into three distinct rooms. When you walk in, you're standing in the middle of the room with new and recent comics. To your left is a room of classic and collectible comics, ranging all the way back to the 1960s. And to the right is the gallery, with affordable prints and a rotating display of artists. The shop is an eager participant in both Ballard Art Walk, on the second Saturday of the month, and Ballard Night Out every third Thursday.
LaMont is thrilled with the response the comics side of the business has seen since he opened. When he started the shop, LaMont says, "I was thinking that probably the artwork side of it would be the easier sell of the two, and that it would take a while to get my comic book business built up. It's proven to be the opposite," he says. "The comics are already on the verge of carrying the business."
Grumpy Old Man's offers discounts of up to 30 percent for subscribers, and LaMont is developing a regular clientele. Some of the new subscribers are likely orphans of Seattle comics-shop attrition: Ballard hasn't had a comics shop since Arcane Comics moved to Shoreline a couple years ago, and downtown's Zanadu Comics closed last month.
LaMont wants curious Seattleites to know that Grumpy Old Man's is "a rather eclectic mix of things, not a typical comics store and not a typical art gallery." To draw in more new customers, the store is having a sizable back issue sale on Saturday, March 31st from 10 am to 6 pm. There's something for everyone in the shop: LaMont is creating a space where different styles of art - disparate styles that fifty years ago would have been dismissed as "low" and lauded as "high" - can live under the same roof.