Heroes Comic Con 2015
Heroes Comic Con is a convention held every year in Charlotte, North Carolina at their downtown convention center. It's sponsored by a local comics store, Heroes Aren't Hard To Find. This year Heroes Comic Con was held over the weekend of June 19-21, 2015.
We hit the road early on Wednesday morning, wanting to get to Charlotte in time to stop at their Vitamin World store. We made good time all the way down to West Virginia, where we made the unhappy discovery that part of the route had been made into a toll road. By that point we were committed and just had to pay the tolls, but we decided we'd take the other route on the way home.
As we stopped at the first toll booth, we got a heads-up that there'd been a bad accident and traffic was all backed up. When we got to the actual accident site, there was a semi flipped over on its side. The cab looked pretty banged up, and presumeaby the driver had been transported.
Later we encountered another backup, but when we got to the place with the emergency vehicles, I didn't see any obvious wreck. However, my husband said he saw a badly smashed motorcycle on the flatbed wrecker. Not exactly the sort of thing one wants to think about on a long trip.
However, the trip wasn't all horrors. While we were in the mountains, we went through places where wisps of fog hung in the air, creating a magical tableau. I would've loved to have had the time to make watercolor sketches of those vistas.
We got to Charlotte right in time for the evening rush hour. We thought we wouldn't have any trouble, but we ran into a huge backup. Because it was so hot, the engine started heating up and I had to turn off the air conditioning.
As we approached the mall where Vitamin World was located, the cell phone rang. It was a friend of ours from Indianapolis. He'd had a medical emergency and was in the hospital, and wanted to let us know he wasn't sure whether he'd be able to help us the following week.
At Vitamin World, we got most of the things we needed. However, I'd managed to forget the list I'd so carefully made, and as a result we forgot two items we needed. I also completely forgot about a coupon I'd brought with me, which was a huge frustration when I discovered it, a few miles down the road.
When we got to the hotel, the desk clerk tried to claim he didn't have a suitable room on the first floor and tried to move us into a pricier room. We bore down on him until he finally found us a suitable room, but it was clear he didn't like doing it. When we got to the room, it was really crappy, at the level I'd expect of a no-name no-tell motel, not a national chain.
We settled in as best we could and I tried to get some writing done. I was tired enough I was glad to turn in for the night. However, I wasn't able to get much sleep. My allergies were acting up, and it was hard to sleep with a clogged nose and sinuses.
The next morning we went down to the complimentary hotel breakfast and were unimpressed. It was all carbs, and that rather scant. When anything ran out, we had to really bear down to get things replenished.
Then we decided to take it easy for a little while, since load-in didn't start until ten. That was a huge mistake. First, our directions were bad, so we lost all our extra time just finding the loading dock. When we did, we found a huge back-up just to get into position to unload. We lost a whole hour of valuable loading time just waiting, and the van's engine did not like the heat.
Once we finally got in, we hustled as fast as we could to get everything hauled in, since we needed to make up for lost time. Once it was all in, I moved the van over to the lot just past the NASCAR Hall of Fame, then hurried back to help my husband set up.
Because of that lost hour stuck in line, we weren't able to get everything set up before they chased us out for the night. We headed back to the hotel to have supper and try to relax before turning in for the night. This time I took some allergy medicine to ensure a decent night's sleep.
The next morning the breakfast was marginally better, but we couldn't take much time to eat it. We hurried back over to the convention center in order to get done setting up before the doors opened for sales. We got done in time, but neither of us had any time to look around.
When the doors opened, people started flowing in, but we weren't seeing a whole lot of sales. It also didn't help that we were getting crummy G3 bandwidth for our iOS devices. We'd been warned ahead of time that AT&T hadn't installed a tower in the convention center and we might experience weak signal strength. I didn't think much of it, since I've been in places where I was getting only a few bars and while I'd experience slow loads on Square Register, I could still use it.
However, down here it was completely unusable. I ended up having to take credit card purchasers upstairs to the concourse, until one of our neighbors took pity on us and gave us the password to their Sprint hotspot.
I heard complaints from several customers who were unhappy that they couldn't use their AT&T smartphones to surf the Internet from the dealers' room floor. I shared my own woes and suggested they contact AT&T with their problem, so corporate would know they were in danger of losing customers. I also was seriously considering getting a Sprint hotspot of my own for next year, so I'd have something to fall back on if I got stuck in another venue with weak AT&T signal.
By the time the day was done, I was feeling a little disappointed. However, I reminded myself that Fridays are often slow. Some people can't take the day off work, and even those who can often want to hold off spending until they've looked through the whole room. So there was a real possibility that sales would pick up on Saturday.
We headed back to the hotel and I did some work on a short story I was doing for a contest. However, I couldn't seem to get any traction on it, so I switched back to my novel and made some notes on it.
On Saturday we had the hotel breakfast, and it seemed like they were a little less grudging about supplying it. Apparently the jerk of a manager had overheard us talking about telling corporate, and wanted to convince us not to.
We headed over to the convention center and got our tables open for business. Then we had a little time to walk around and visit other sellers' booths.
When the doors opened and people started flowing in, we were getting good traffic, but sales remained sub-par. However, I was beginning to see a pattern. In the Midwest, there's a strong overlap between otaku and superhero comic fans, such that I can take my anime and Japanese culture merchandise and have good sales. Here we were selling a few tea sets and keychains, but people were constantly asking whether we had any superhero and TV tie in merchandise.
As a result, I concluded that if we were going to return to it in future years, we really needed to get some superhero-oriented merchandise to add to our lineup. There was also the problem of our setup. Because we had found out about the convention so late, we had to take what booths we could get, which meant we couldn't get a corner. As a result, we had our big t-shirt structure in the middle, with a bay on either side to sell collectibles. That meant our store lacked visual unity and we had people buy something on one side from one of us, then go to the other side and buy something else from the other one, thinking they were dealing with two different stores. So we needed to make sure we had at least one corner booth and could have a visually unified presentation.
After the dealers' room closed for the night, we headed back to our hotel to have supper and wind down. I did some more writing, mostly just notes.
On Sunday we had breakfast and headed back to the convention center. Because we wanted to get in on the discount for buying our space for next year's convention, I filled out the forms and got the deposit turned in. By the time that was done, I didn't have much time to look around before I had to be ready to start selling.
Sales continued to be steady, and when it was time to start packing up, I could tell that we had sold enough to have a few empty boxes. We had several people helping us, so I headed over to the parking lot to retrieve the van.
However, I hadn't started early enough. I found a huge line to get into the loading dock, and it took almost an hour to work my way through it. While I was waiting, I'd keep the engine turned off because it was cooler and I didn't need the fan to keep things bearable. I also did some work on my con review.
By the time I finally got into place and could start loading out, all but one of our helpers had given up and taken off. Luckily this guy was a real worker and full of hustle, and got stuff down to me while I worked out where to put everything. I made some loading mistakes and ended up having to put some boxes of ceramics in less than ideal places.
Finally we were done and able to head back to our hotel for one last night. We had a little time to wind down before turning in for the night. Because I had an ice pack stuck in the hotel mini-fridge's freezer, thanks to an excessive accumulation of frost, and had no intention of leaving it behind, I put our food in the cooler with plenty of ice and set to defrosting that thing.
On Monday morning we had the hotel's crummy breakfast before packing our stuff to leave. The mini-fridge had defrosted enough that I was able to retrieve the ice pack, for which I was glad.
After we checked out, we hit the road for home. We stopped at a branch of our bank and deposited our cash, which was a considerable relief. I really don't like having to carry large amounts of cash any more than I have to.
The trip through the Appalachians seemed a little steeper on this route. I noticed several points where the van's engine really strained to get us up the grade. As we got into Tennessee and Kentucky, we started running into some serious traffic backups, thanks to road construction. At least it gave us some forewarning for our upcoming trip to Tampa Bay Comic Con.
We got back home in time for a rather late supper. At least it was cooler in Indianapolis than what we'd been dealing with in Charlotte, so unloading our personal belongings wasn't quite as much of a chore.
Copyright 2015 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated September 24, 2015.