Update : Soda ceased trading in Aug 2016
SC met up with Ben from the new comic shop Soda which recently opened on Watergate st, in the premises occupied last year by the unpopular Chester Dungeon…
“I’m Ben, proprietor of Soda. Its a pop culture shop, record shop and a comic shop rolled into one. We also have a massive selection of trading cards, cards for kids and for slightly older children as well, like Magic; the gathering. I’m a big record collector myself, very passionate about it.I love vinyl. We always have vinyl records playing in the shop and I’m putting out new selections every day. All of our new records are handpicked by myself. I go out and search for specific titles.
Of the former tenant he laughs when he says : “I never saw it so can’t really comment. I know a few of the surrounding businesses were very glad that I’m here and the dungeon isn’t. Apparently there used to be people jumping out at people walking past, and screams and shouts when they were trying to enjoy a nice tea or coffee next door. ”
Ben expresses a love for Chester having lived here previously. “I live in Altrincham at the moment. I lived in North Wales as well. I have some really good friends in Chester and I always liked coming here. I love the people , its such a mixed bag, a great community. I love the record and comic collectors, they’re all very cool and know what they’re talking about. Wants to get more Manga in, large market for it especially amongst students. ” I sell it quicker than I get it in. This year we are working with a wholesaler to get all the new comics in, which should make things easier.
“We do a huge amount of comics, I try and hand pick them . We also have “pound comics” and a huge selection of back issues. Also graphic novels, we try and make everything accessible. We do full sets, comics that I’ve found and bundled together. I also try and find the rarer ones. Lots of Suicide Squad and Deadpool are very popular at the moment. Star Wars wise, I haven’t seen the film yet! For anybody in the same boat we have a huge range of graphic novels, Legacy, Knights of the Republic etc, from about 8 quid upwards.”
SODA also offer T shirts, bags, pop vinyl and mugs, and are always looking for new stock. Ben says that ” if anybody has any guitars, amps, records, comics anything like that , come down to us and I’ll pay the absolute best that I can because we need the stock. ” Retro games and consoles also welcome.
Watergate St has come under a lot of criticism in the last few years with independent retail seeing as been in a state of decline. The council are often criticised for not supporting independents, but Ben takes a different view. “Watergate st is ace. Its very independent. we have the comic strip guy upstairs, the fudge guys, the cafe next door (Watergate deli) .. its the best cafe I’ve ever been to. When I first opened I had a cake brought to me from next door!
“Its a lot better than some other places! I have another shop in Altrincham, its ten times as bad as Chester. You get more footfall, absolutely. Altrincham is a dead town, I hate the council there. I never really like to say nice things about councils but here I’ve had nothing but help. Questions have been answered quickly. This council are willing, they want people to come in, this council is alright.
“Business rates are OK, it depends where you are. If you’re an independent business you shouldn’t be aiming for the centre of town anyway. There are affordable rates, but you’ll never get into the likes of Debenhams (Eastgate st) … you need to aim for what’s realistic. Also praises street cleaning team- there are cleaners walking by all the time, it makes a massive difference. ” Ben is sad about the closure of Linenhall car park to make way for student housing: ” We get a lot of footfall from there, and I park there for a fiver. They need to reduce the parking charges, for business owners it is not affordable to pay £8 a day.. you’re basically working for an hour, just to park… Admits that parking is a “touchy subject.. a lot of it is privately owned which is hard to answer.. It’s the same in Altrincham”
In 2016 Ben is looking forward to “people knowing that we’re here. We have lots more stuff arriving. We have guitars coming in, lots of musical equipment. I do try and play a bit myself and I’m looking to build that stock up.”
Thanks SODA. Facebook- Soda Chester