Monday, July 18, 2011

Monty's: The End of an Era...

When I was about 13 years old, I got a "job" rolling up newsprint grocery store ads in the back of what was then called Monty's Book Swap on 40 Hwy in Independence. Apparently the owners of this used book, comic, and game store also owned a grocery store. My friend J.D. and I would get 2 or 3 cents for every ad we rolled up and rubber-banded; then we'd turn around and buy comics with the money (not a bad deal for Monty).

Over the years I've come back to Monty's off and on, despite moving away from Independence and falling in with better organized stores like Pulp Fiction in Lee's Summit. Why? Nostalgia, I guess. But Monty's has always held a special place in my heart. A more or less chaotic jumble of gaming and comic materials rewards the diligent searcher (nothing is organized at all). But if you like back issues, old games and books, and don't mind searching through crap for them, Monty's has a special sort of charm all its own.

But not for much longer. I went out there last Saturday morning (I was up early and feeling nostalgic), and they tell me they're closing up shop in a few months. Monty has breast cancer. They caught it early, but they're both getting older (that store is almost never open anyway - like, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or something ridiculous like that). They don't get a lot of returning, regular customers because they're not carrying first-run comics anymore. In short, they're just ready to retire.

I'll miss Monty's. I picked up awesome, matching hardcover copies of the Thomas Covenant trilogy and Gene Wolf's Book of the New Sun trilogy, as well as Harry Harrison's West of Eden and two cool additions to my GURPS reference collection (Arabian Nights and Religion...I love those GURPS sourcebooks because they're useful regardless of genre). I saw a few other things I'd like to go back next week and get, including what appeared to be a nice boxed set of Traveller: 2300.

Some of my friends don't love Monty's. I think it's a treasure house of cool stuff (you've just gotta dig for it, like any good treasure). Growing up in Independence in the 1980s, there was nowhere to get obscure comics. Sure, I could get my favorites (Avengers, Iron Man, Warlord, X-Men, Justice League) at 7-11 back then, but where was I going to get Alpha Flight, or Alien Legion, or The Watchmen? Or the British black-and-white magazine sized comics like Judge Dredd, 2000 A.D. and Savage Sword of Conan? Clint's, in Midtown KC, was too far away to get a ride to. Monty's was it. I could get an AD&D book, and even Traveller materials, at Hobby Haven at the Independence Center - but where was I going to get Warhammer books?

I'll keep going back to Monty's every two weeks until they close and see what I can find. They're doing pretty good deals on what's's hoping all goes smoothly with their health concerns and that all those obscure items find good homes. As far as I'm concerned, it's the end of an era, and as much as I love my slick local game store, nothing will ever replace that slightly shabby, hidden-in-a-basement shop that was nothing less than a window to the world of the fantastic for a young Seann (and who knows who else).

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