Trusty Young Ward
Levi Ward, the new GM for Happy Harbor Comics talks the shop’s legacy downtown and the location’s new ownership.
Heroes keep vigil over Happy Harbor.
Dynasty locations, be it retail or hospitality, are no strangers to change. As the city’s core has gone through a transition in topography so has its businesses, and in the face of a turbulent landscape some of the city’s downtown stores have had to shut their doors. Happy Harbor Comics, a legacy location in the downtown area, was one of these stores at risk of folding — yet with a Hail Mary pass from an outside buyer, and tandem work with the shop’s original owner, the location was saved.
“Happy Harbor was always a place we’d scope out and visit on our trips to the city looking for potential locations. It would usually result in me saying to my partner ‘well there’s no point thinking about this place it’s already too great’,” says Levi Ward, the new general manager.
Wonderland Games, a branch of tabletop stores across the province bought out the location back in January. A move that some loyal to the shop were concerned about, as the shop has prominently been one of the go-to places for comics in the city, and not so much table top activities.
“… its been a few months now and people are happy with what we did change.”
“A few people were popping in the shop over the transitional period and were honest in their concern of what the shop was going to turn into, but its been a few months now and they are clearly comfortable with what we did change,” says Ward.
Layout of the shop was shaken up, but in a gambit that seldom happens with retail buyouts, the original shop owner aided in the transition — often offering his guidance and input.
Buck a book at Happy Harbor.
“Jay Bardyla, the original owner, was someone we worked closely with. When I was working along side him I saw him really put in that extra mile… and a half, hell even an extra kilometer,” says Ward with a chuckle.
“The big shoes left behind weren’t just filled by my two feet, it took many.”
Ward is fully aware of the role he is stepping into, and as a young business operator who came all the way down from Grand Prairie to take this gig, he knows the job would come with the pressure of a microscope from the community. Something he knew he couldn’t overcome without the help of the store’s original staff, the majority of whom stuck around during the transition.
“The big shoes left behind weren’t just filled by my two feet, it took many,” Ward says in regards to his staff.
With the initial buyout occurring in January and Bardyla’s official departure just having passed in March the dust is finally settling on the Harbor’s take over. Events happen at the location at a smooth pace and the community appears exuberant that their little downtown comic cave was saved from a fate many Edmonton retailers have suffered.
The new layout of Happy Harbor.
“It’s about bringing that community sensation back, ensuring people who love this culture have a place to hang, even if they don’t have a dollar to their name,” says Ward.
Much like comic books themselves, it would appear that the cape is being passed down to a younger generation, ready to duel the evils of a rapidly shifting retail mentality, and equally shifting downtown.