When the floods of August 2016 washed away most of Southeast Sports Cards and Comics in Denham Springs, owner Eddie Kay had a decision to make: rebuild or close up shop.
Closing was never an option.
Just like his collection of action figures, comics and sports cards, Kay said the spirits of those who lost everything in floods could also be rebuilt. So he decided to move his business, now called Jason’s Southeast Sports Cards and Comics, from Denham Springs to 5229 Government St. in Baton Rouge.
But the road to getting that storefront open was one full of obstacles.
Kay’s interest in comics started in 1993 after reading the “Death of Superman” comics. He had to have the book for himself and went to Mr. Bill’s, which is now Louisiana Double Play. There, one of the employees told Kay it wasn’t one book, but a series that told the death of one of DC’s most iconic characters. Kay then began collecting comics.
A few years later, Kay met a man working at Baker Comics who had a plethora of sports cards in the warehouse. Kay started filling binders and cases full of cards.
“They had everything,” he said. “[The store had] autographed rookie cards, the Troy Aikmans and Dan Marinos. All of that.”
Kay and his family started selling comic books and cards at the Deep South Flea Market on Florida Boulevard in 2007.
“It was a small 10-by-10 booth back then,” Kay said. “But that was my first opening as a store.”
Kay had a store off Jefferson Highway from 2008-2010, then later moved to Denham Springs in 2010. By then, he had expanded to eight 10-by-10 booths. The store was then called Southeast Cards and Comics. The first few weeks were rough as they moved to an area where the business had no loyal customers. Slowly but surely, a clientele began to build.
Business was going well until that fateful August weekend last year.
Shane Price, an employee of Southeast, came to work in the shop the day the flooding began.
“In Denham Springs, it’s always going to flood a little bit when it rains,” Price said. “I didn’t think anything of it. I got there, and no one was there, so I went home.”
Kay, who also works for the Denham Springs Police Department, was a first responder the weekend of the floods. He passed by the flea market in Denham Springs on Friday morning where everything appeared fine. Kay gathered a few things, changed his soggy socks and went back to work.
Soon after, the rains picked up. Kay worked that entire weekend helping residents evacuate and responding to other emergencies. On Monday morning, the owner of the flea market told Kay and other vendors the building had taken on approximately seven feet of water.
Almost everything they had was gone.
“It was like a bomb had gone off in there,” Kay said. “Out of nearly 100 boxes, we could only salvage about five. All the rare cards we had were washed away.”
That same day, after processing the damages, Kay decided they had to reopen the shop somewhere else. Prior to the flood, he was already considering opening another location in Baton Rouge. Now, that location would become the storefront.
The shop held its grand re-opening on Oct. 26, 2016. Kay and Price are slowly restocking the shop via online and warehouse orders. They are also rebuilding their clientele.
“We have repeat customers,” Price said. “I didn’t think it would be this fast, but our business has been good, and the community has been so welcoming.”
In the store is an art piece in the shape of Louisiana made from covers of some of the books that couldn’t be salvaged. Kay says that addition to the store serves as a reminder that his dream won’t be taken away as long as he can help it.
Now that the store is doing well, Kay is looking at ways to give back to the community. He spoke of inviting kids to the store on Saturdays to open up packs of cards or raffles for big giveaways. May 6 is National Comic Book Day, and Kay said he is looking forward to doing something special then.
The recent surge in comic books being adapted to movies and TV shows has led to very positive sales for Jason’s Southeast Sports Cards and Comics. That popularity, along with regular fans and card collectors, leads Kay to believe the business is only rising.
“I still want another location,” Kay said. “I’m looking at some places back in Denham because a lot of our clientele doesn’t just pass through Baton Rouge every day to stop by.”
The shop is now filled with comics and cards and toys, both old and new. Kay said they get new shipments in at least twice a week and the display shelves are always being rotated. But just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean Kay can’t get it.
“If someone has a certain issue they need or a card they want, come talk to me and we’ll find it,” Kay said. “What’s most fun about this business is the thrill of the hunt and completing these sets because they all mean something to someone. They share it with family and friends and that’s an excitement that can’t be replicated.”
Jason’s Southeast Sports Cards and Comics is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, call (225) 364-2369 or visit facebook.com/southeast.cardscomics.