This is Lee Francis, owner of Red Planet Books & Comics — the only Native-owned comic book store in the world — in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Lee started Red Planet in 2017 after successfully launching Indigenous Comic Con in 2016. Growing up, Lee found respite in comics and role playing games where he found his community. Today, Red Planet has established its own widespread community where Native creatives can showcase their work, Indigenous people can have some representation, and everyone can be themselves.
Get to know more about Lee in this week’s Business Spotlight Q&A.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What’s something your customers may not know about you or your business?
The big thing right now is that we distribute [online]. You can order anything from us, and that includes regular, mainstream books. We don’t post them because that’s not where our business is, but we can accommodate anything. And for folks who want to come do that, you’re supporting a Native business. You’re supporting that big push for diversity and the necessity of supporting that. Our money goes back into our community, it goes back into our publishing. The money we make out of our storefront goes to pay for staff members, and then it goes back to Native creatives who are making card games and comic books and virtual graphics for us.
What’s your favorite part about the community your business is in and why?
We do an open storefront with Southwest Organizing Project. They’re not just a landlord — they’re a partner. As an organization, they do so much work in the community around racial justice and equity — everything we’re trying to strive for in terms of building better communities. We occupy kind of a border space in downtown Albuquerque. [Red Planet is around] all these little neighborhoods that have been there forever. I think our location is a beacon to continue to showcase not only what can be done entrepreneurially, but also how you can give back to the community. It’s an amazing neighborhood, and I’m so glad we were able to grow and establish our roots here.
Why is it important to you and your business that people #SpendLikeItMatters?
There’s an economic value around the sustainability of communities and a direct line to a healthy community that has small businesses supported. These are small to mid-sized businesses that end up being the backbone. If you don’t have those, you get a negative curve where you have a lot of micro businesses, which is people selling stuff on the road, and mega businesses, which is industrial-type stuff like Amazon, that doesn’t actually benefit a community. Small businesses include auto-repair shops, salons, laundromats, bookstores — you have this whole line of small businesses that are in the middle that create a robust space where people actually want to live. Those are the backbone of how you create a healthy, sustainable, community-based economic system.