Bill Sheely knew he wanted to run a comic book store ever since working for one in his youth. After some detours along the way, Sheely now owns and operates The Woodlands area’s newest hobby shop, The Adventure Begins Comics and Games.
“I was just a kid, and I decided that one day I would have a comic and game shop of my own,” he said. “It took me over a quarter century, but here I am.”
Sheely, originally from Hawaii, moved to Texas in 2006 while working for a technology company he co-founded in 2000. When that enterprise was bought out more than a year ago, he began to cast around for his next move and eventually decided to follow up on his childhood dream.
“I was having dinner with a friend out in California and basically making my first-world problem complaint, ‘I’m not sure what I want to do next,’” Sheely said. “He [said], ‘Well, you always talked about opening your own comic shop. Why don’t you do that?’”
Sheely took the advice and embarked on months of industry research to get back into the comics business. After settling on a site for his new store at the Marcel Town Center on a developing stretch of FM 1488 in Conroe, The Adventure Begins opened in January. Sheely said the location has already proven good for business despite the challenges associated with opening a modern brick-and-mortar shop.
“It takes some time to get the word out there that you’re here,” he said. “But every day we see brand new faces, and everyone loves the place.”
Sheely said he took a “broad but shallow” strategy to stocking the store after sifting through tens of thousands of available products, and The Adventure Begins is now packed with shelves of comics for all ages, ranging from individual issues to larger trade books and graphic novels. The store is also filled with an assortment of games, collectibles and toys.
While he said he is happy with his store’s inventory and sales so far, Sheely said he hopes the community aspect of the store will set it up for success in the area by providing a “third-space” alternative to visitors’ homes and workplaces.
“We have to have a place where people want to come, and they want to gather, socialize. We’re kind of the comic and game watering hole,” he said. “Every person I interviewed for my staff, I told
them, ‘If we don’t build a community, we’re dead in the water.’”
To facilitate that goal and help customers “Unplug and Play,” The Adventure Begins is filled with social space for anyone to use. Half of the shop is occupied by a variety of gaming tables, and two private rooms can be used for birthday parties, parents nights out, local club gatherings and other group activities. Sheely also has open game boxes for customers to try on the tables before making a purchase, and he invites anyone in the community to bring their own favorites in to play as well.
“A lot of people just want that third space to hang out, and we offer an alternative to some other places like a bar,” he said. “I certainly would love to see where we have full tables almost every night; I’ve got this beautiful gaming space, and I want people to use it.”
Sheely said he is pleased with the store’s sales and clientele so far, and the realization of The Adventure Begins theme tying into gaming culture and his own life. Sheely said he chose that name as an evocation of the quests of a comic story or role-playing game, to symbolize his personal next steps as a business owner and to represent his hopes of introducing future enthusiasts to the culture of comics and gaming.
“If I can create a few new hobbyists out of them that would be fantastic,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to stop the societal forces at work, but if I could just get a few kids playing a game with friends rather than being on the computer, that’s a win.”
The Adventure Begins Comics and Games
525 Woodland Square Blvd., Ste. 130, Conroe
Hours: Sun.-Mon. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Tue.-Thu. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-midnight