Owners of Ann Arbor's Vault of Midnight comic store to buy building as landlords retire

The three co-owners of Ann Arbor's Vault of Midnight comic book shop will also own the building at 219 S. Main in November.

"Our current landlords, Steve and Shelly Kelly, are pretty amazing people who took a chance on letting us rent there in the first place," says Curtis Sullivan, co-owner along with Steve Fodale and Nick Yribar. "The opportunity to buy is pretty incredible, and we're going to try to live up to their example of how to be property owners in the city."

Vault of Midnight was founded in Ann Arbor 22 years ago but moved around to three other locations in the city before landing at their current South Main Street location. Starting Nov. 1, the co-owners will be in charge of the upper two floors of the building in addition to the comic book shop that takes up the main suite at the ground and lower levels.

Fodale says the Kellys planned to retire and didn't have any heirs to pass the building onto, and decided to give the Vault of Midnight owners the option to purchase the building.

Yribar says he and the other two co-owners were born and raised in Ann Arbor and have watched how the city has changed over the course of their lives, including seeing developers from outside the city come in to buy property and local businesses closing down.

Owning the building will help, Yribar says, "cement our place in the city."

In the age of internet competition that has encompassed nearly every retail niche, Vault of Midnight has continued to thrive, adding a shop in Grand Rapids five years ago and one in Detroit two years ago. Sullivan attributes this success to building relationships and providing a great customer experience.

"We have to provide a pretty amazing experience to justify folks going through the trouble of going to an actual brick and mortar shop," Yribar says. "It has to be amazing, the best part of their day when they come to Vault of Midnight."

In the near future, the co-owners are planning major renovations to their shop and discussing whether they may want to expand to additional locations around the state. However, the short-term plan involves adjusting to a new role.

"We just had our first case of dripping water, and that was fun," Sullivan says. "We realized that we're the one handling the drip from now on."

Becoming landlords is the next big challenge, but also presents opportunities, Yribar says. 

"The fact that we've had the opportunity to buy the building makes us think about the future in a completely different way."

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.