New York is losing “The Avalanche” that is the wonderful and chaotic Joseph Koch Comic Warehouse.

March 26, 2024, 1:17pm

New York City is losing one of its most unique literary spaces: the Joseph Koch Comic Warehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. For over 25 years, Koch (no, he’s not one of those Kochs) has run a brisk mail and web ordering business in comics, paperbacks, and ephemera out of the warehouse, in addition to welcoming shoppers who want to hunt among the dusty stacks. Koch has referred to his dizzying repository as The Endless Convention, The Warehouse of Wonders, and The Avalanche, monikers that capture the intoxicating and overwhelming feeling of the place. “Almost everyone is overwhelmed when they come in here,” Joe told The New York Times in 2015.

The news of the closing made the rounds recently on social media, and like so many stories these days, the culprit is untenable rent hikes. Koch spoke about the closing to Zach Rabiroff for The Comics Journal, and noted that the neighborhood used to be too dangerous and industrial for most, but times have changed: “There’s a BMW showroom here now.”

Tucked away past an elevated expressway and down a series of industrial hallways and staircases, Koch’s Warehouse is a vast storeroom of barely controlled chaos. There’s a back office and a small lounge area with old couches, Halloween decorations, and a TV playing grainy VHSes, but otherwise the space is filled with aisles and aisles of shelves, seemingly endless storage boxes, and one sweet, shy cat who Koch swears was born inside the Warehouse.

Koch is part of what feels like a shrinking archive and back catalogue for a comics publishing industry that is increasingly hard to get a handle on. As Koch told The Comic’s Journal, “In 1990, if you had 80 long white boxes of comics… you could have a credible inventory of books from the last 15 years. If you have 80 boxes of comics today, you don’t have a credible inventory of books from the last two years.”

This hasn’t kept Koch from trying to keep up. This sense of scale is part of the Warehouse’s charm, and every time I visit, I discover something unexpected: not only comics, but vintage trade magazines, out-of-print pulp novels, and promotional posters for ‘90s movies. This fall, I bought a beautiful, tattered copy of a Le Guin novel and a nearly complete set of emergency vehicle trading cards, featuring such stars of the tarmac as Cambridge, Maryland’s mobile breath alcohol testing truck and Dothan, Alabama’s “talking” Volkswagen—a Beetle with a PA system hidden in a large hat on its roof.

Koch plans to move to a smaller space, and is still getting new stuff in (“We just picked up a huge Elvis collection”). But if you can, make a trip down to explore the stacks of The Endless Convention before it closes.

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