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Amalgam: Frankford Avenue Welcomes Comic/Coffee Shop

Frankford Avenue added yet another business to its blossoming corridor just before the New Year, a comic book store and coffee shop fusion called Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse Incorporated. Located at 2578 Frankford Ave., Amalgam is the brainchild of longtime comic book enthusiast Ariell Johnson who recognized a void in the industry while she was a student at Temple University.


Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse./Thomas Weir

“I got the idea when I was a sophomore in college,” Johnson said. “On Fridays, I would go to Fat Jack’s Comicrypt on 20th and Samson and across the street from it was this really cool coffee shop called Crimson Moon. This really cool woman ran it, really cool vibe there. I would go, buy my books, walk across the street, get a hot chocolate and a piece a cake, sit down and read everything.”


Ariell Johnson./Thomas Weir

Johnson liked being able to read her comics out in a public setting rather than feeling like she needed to seclude herself to her room at home. However, Johnson’s routine was interrupted when Crimson Moon closed their doors permanently. That’s when she starting thinking about marrying these two worlds.

In 2003, Johnson recalls telling a friend, “Man, it’d be really cool if there was a place where you could buy your books, but you didn’t have to leave; you know, get something to eat, sit down, read a book, get into a conversation.” From that point on, the idea was one Johnson kept in the back of her mind, discussing it with only her friends and family. Eventually, the idea fell on the back burner as Johnson prepared to graduate and find work. But as is the case with many small business owners, she was not quite satisfied with what the job market had to offer.


/Thomas Weir


/Thomas Weir

“I just got [a job] where I was really unhappy,” Johnson said.

After college, she worked at Walgreens in retail management for more than three years. After leaving Walgreens, Johnson found work using her degree as an accountant at a non-profit. While it would be a welcome change of pace, Johnson still was not content.


/Thomas Weir

“I knew I needed a different job, but I didn’t even know what that would mean because I wasn’t excited about anything,” Johnson admitted. “I just felt like I was floating through life.”


/Thomas Weir

During this transitional time, Johnson remembers a particular conversation with her sister and brother-in-law in which her brother-in-law claimed the only time he saw Johnson get excited was when she talked about comics.

“I kind of took it as a dig at first. I was 25 or 26 and dealing with, ‘I’m not a kid, I’m an adult, so I need to be an adult — and what does that look like? Probably not reading these comic books,’” Johnson said. Johnson’s sister clarified, saying that if comics make her sister happy, perhaps she ought to pursue it somehow. Johnson said this conversation convinced her to finally take a shot on Amalgam.


/Thomas Weir


/Thomas Weir

Off and on for the next year and a half, Johnson juggled work and drafting a business plan for the comic shop to be. Given the unique nature of the business Johnson wanted to open, finding hard data to help guide her decisions was hard to come by. While there are not many comic store/coffee shop hybrids in this region, there were a few in the midwest and western United States that Johnson reached out to for advice.


/Thomas Weir

Once the business plan was figured out, Johnson needed to pick a neighborhood to house Amalgam. She considered Lancaster Avenue and Point Breeze before looking at the space on Frankford Avenue. “When I walked into the space, I just saw it,” Johnson said. “That was the clincher for me.” A crowdfunding campaign and a ton of construction later, Amalgam was ready to open its doors.

When asked what is next for Amalgam, Johnson laughed and said, “I have no idea. I don’t have an answer for that. It hasn’t even really hit me yet.” For now, it seems Johnson and Amalgam are just happy to have found a home and with the shop already full of both traditional café goers and comic book fans alike, it is safe to say many others are happy that home is on Frankford Avenue.


/Thomas Weir

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