I’m hearing from numerous customers saying, “I really voted for that but I did not know it would affect you”…says Brian Hibbs, the owner and operator of Comix Experience, which is an iconic comic book and a graphic novel shop on San Francisco’s Divisadero street, of the new minimum wage law.
San Francisco’s position J which was voted for by 77% of voters in November will raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 by the year 2018. As of today, Hibbs is required by law to pay his employees a salary of $12 per hour. That is just the first of incremental raises that is threatening to put hundreds of other comic shops out of business.
Hibbs opened Comix Experience on 1st April, Fools Day in 1989 when he was just 21 years old. Over two and a half decades, the store has become one of the most visited for premier comic-book artists and graphic novelists, and Hibbs has become a leading figure in this industry. He notes with pride that his store has turned profit each passing year, with no small task since its inception.
“But, that may not last” He says. According to him, the $15 per hour minimum wage will require a staggering $80,000 extra revenue annually. “I was appalled; my jaws dropped…$80,000 a year! I had not thought of that…I thought we were talking of small amount of money…something I can absorb.”
Hibbs considers doing the same but notes two problems. “By saying, give me money, you are somehow saying you are not viable.” Furthermore, there is a limitation on how much crowd funding should be done…and when you are the 10th one, I don’t think it’s going to be easy.”
Hibbs does not intend to circumvent the market. “Even though I have been living in San Francisco, I believe in capitalism…I would like the market to solve this problem.” That applies not to Gibbs plight but to the question of minimum wage. “I think any law that does not consider people’s ability to pay may not be the best way to go.” He says.
Hibbs and his staff are upfront on the reason for the club and they have been encouraged by the response. He says that they need 334 subscribers for them to remain solvent with the new minimum wage and that in the first month; they are 40% on the way towards that goal. If they get more than the number of subscribers they have targeted, they plan to divvy the extra cash as bonuses or raisers.
Hibbs employees, aspiring comic artists, students…and just plain and simple…comic-book lovers know that the value of their work is respected here…and he knows that the work should be appropriately compensated. He has been able to do it for a quarter century by dint of a passion for his business and so continuing to do it despite San Francisco’s fanatical progressivism does not call for superhuman strength and Gibbs can do it even better.