Little Deer Comics: An Interview With Matthew Melis
During the pandemic a new shop sprung up in my neighbourhood selling a unique collection of independent books. I decided to talk to Matthew Melis all about extended his store to a physical building.
What made you decide to start a physical store?
I was content with Little Deer being a market stall (pre pandemic) and mail-order business (since the pandemic started), but we basically ran out of space in our home. If our tiny house had had an attic or a garage, Little Deer would likely still be just a website. But the mail-order business was outgrowing our home and Maureen’s in Stoneybatter (a favourite neighbourhood building of mine) became available at the same time, so we decided to make the leap. It might return to being a mail-order business in the future but for now we’re happy at Emmet Hall in Inchicore. So long as we can afford to be a physical shop we’re enjoying being a physical shop.
You started in Stoneybatter, what was that like as a location?
Stoneybatter is where our home is but we couldn’t afford to keep Little Deer open there unfortunately. Maureen’s is a beautiful old building, but it’s in desperate need of renovation and the rent was ridiculously expensive. It’s a shame because people in Stoneybatter want more shops and want more to do in the neighbourhood, but the out-of-control property prices and retail rents are driving out businesses. I’ve always got my eye on Stoneybatter for the future, if Little Deer could ever afford to purchase a retail space, I would want it to be in Stoneybatter. Shop-owners owning their shop-building is a romantic concept (see Maureen’s almost mythical status in the neighbourhood) but today’s Ireland really makes it as difficult as possible to prevent shop-owners from ever owning the building their shop is in.
You’ve moved to a new premises. How does the new location compare?
Our new building is lovely and we’re getting used to the quirks of Inchicore. The flow of footfall on Emmet Road is completely different than the footfall on Manor Place despite Dublin City Council charging near identical footfall rates. Thankfully, even though the sales at Emmet Hall have been more erratic, they even out over the month and we’re doing about the same business in Inchicore that we were doing in Stoneybatter, which is a relief because I worried that moving locations would be like starting over. We’re hoping to add workshops to our offerings since the new shop has room for them but we’re still working out the logistics.
For people who don’t know, what kind of things do you sell?
Little Deer Comics specializes in small press comics. There’s a lot of ways to say that: indie comics, alt-comics, creator-owned comics, graphic novels, basically everything that’s not Marvel/DC superheroes. Comics is an expansive medium and I tend to think that anyone will find a comic that interests them in Little Deer. We organise the shop by genre to both showcase all the storytelling possibilities of comics and to make the shop as familiar and easy to navigate as a bookstore or DVD aisle. We try to highlight voices that don’t normally get the spotlight and put local comic creators front and centre.
Any Irish comic recommendations?
I’m a bit behind on my reading list (I’ve way less time to read comics since I started selling comics!) but I’m very much looking forward to Luke Healy’s The Con Artists that’s coming out in June. Philip Barrett’s The Knock On and Debbie Jenkinson’s Ghosting (restocking shortly!) are Little Deer’s best selling comics and my go-to recommendation for anyone looking for some local Irish comics. And I was really moved by the melody of Hugh Madden’s Death of Postumus, a lyrical retelling of the assassination of Roman Emperor Augustus’ grandson Agrippa Marcus Postumus.
For those who can’t make it to you, there’s an online option, right?
https://littledeercomics.ie is our webshop. Like the physical shop, it’s subdivided by genre with a solid search populated with loads of tags to find whatever genre or subgenre might interest you. Click and collect is available and we do regular post-office runs to send books all over Ireland (and sometimes the world with some of our harder-to-find comics).