On Sunday morning alarm bells were still ringing in La Mesa Springs Shopping Center as residents organized a clean-up operation after a night of rioting.
Among the Vons, Play it Again Sports and SportClips is a place called Crazy Fred’s. It’s a locally-owned collectible cards and comic book shop that got caught up in the violence.
“Things were stolen. Not as much as we were afraid of, though,” says Sara Adair, wife of Crazy Fred, the shop’s owner.
Crazy Fred and his staff had removed most of the truly valuable cards and comics a mere moments before their store of 16 years experienced the chaos.
“We had just been waiting for the call from our security company for the glass break,” says Adair. “Once we saw that the rioting had hit the Vons we knew it was just a matter of time and we couldn’t do anything. It was really hard.”
The cash register was also emptied before being obliterated.
“There was just change, that’s it,” says Madison Parker, a store employee who was relieved to find some of the items connoisseurs covet still intact in the back room, like unopened boxes of Legends card decks.
“None of this was touched. We had this stuff hidden in the back, luckily,” says Parker.
Just how much are the Legends boxes worth?
“This one is about $8,000,” says Parker, holding a stack of boxes that could likely cover a semester of college tuition.
Parker says looters took several packs of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, likely because they’re popular, which suggests they were not protesting peacefully; they were looking to cause trouble.
Photos: La Mesa Protest on May 30, 2020
Luckily the fires that burned around the parking lot did not get to Crazy Fred’s.
“Between all the paper cards and the plastic there would have been no recovering. Even if some of the product burned that would have been the end of it,” says Parker.
Still, this setback, with every window smashed and some product gone, could mean Crazy Fred’s has to close its doors for good.
“A comic book store runs on a pretty slim profit margin already,” says Adair. “With this on top of COVID I don’t know if we’re coming back from it. Right now it seems impossible but we’ll see.”
A comic book store is a community. People gather at Crazy Fred’s to chat and play games. So in the aftermath, seeing an outpouring of support as dozens showed up to help clean and fill boxes, has already started the healing process.
“It does help my heart because we’ve had a lot of our store regulars come in. That’s a bulk of the people in the store right now helping to box it up,” says Adair. “Everybody who’s loved the store and been a part of it for all 16 years, a lot of them are coming in today to help. We’ve just been flooded with offers of help.”
Much like the superheroes on the shelves, they’re trying to see something positive in a terrible situation.
“It sucks,” says Parker. “But it could have been worse. That’s how I’m looking at it.”