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Hattiesburg fixture Southern Fried Comics closing its doors

December 7, 2018

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Southern Fried Comics, one of two comic book stores in Hattiesburg, is closing Dec. 30.

Owner Barry Herring said he has to have some time to himself after running a small business for eight years.

“As much as I love it — wholeheartedly love it — there’s not a lot of life to it,” he said. “If there is one, I’m going to go look for it.

“I haven’t found that work-life balance. Owning your own small business isn’t it.”

Herring said he’s been consistently working long hours, six days a week — at a job he has appreciated, but one that comes with many sacrifices.

“Time off is in my future,” he said. “The only plan I have is for someone else to give me a check for working, some vacation and a little health insurance.

“That sounds amazing.”

Herring opened Southern Fried Comics at 136 E. Front St. in historic downtown Hattiesburg in August 2010. He gave up a job as a merchandising manager for Border Books to pursue his love of comics.

Herring developed a fondness for comic books at the age of 4 or 5, as he hung around his parents’ grocery store in Guntown.

“I would just sit and read the comics off the spinner,” he said. “It was kind of my babysitter.

“I grew up reading comics. I loved Spiderman, X-men. It was a great form of entertainment. Here’s these super-flashy, super heroes doing super things. It was fantastic.”

Herring still reads comics as an adult.

“I don’t see how you can really run an effective comic book store without reading comics,” he said. “I started reading DC Comics.

“I read Marvel for so long. DC was a breath of fresh air — (I read) that and the indie books.

“I tend to read more indie than anything else right now.”

For those who are not familiar with the comics world — Marvel generally has a more realistic element than DC Comics. DC focuses on godly beings like Superman or Wonder Woman.

Marvel heroes are normal humans with abnormal powers and human-like troubles.

For fans of Marvel and DC Comics, Herring’s store has been a fixture in historic downtown Hattiesburg and will be missed.

Katie Green, a server at nearby Southbound Bagel and Coffee Shop, hates to see any downtown business close.

“Downtown is like a family,” she said. “It’s tough to lose a family member.

“We’re a community. It’s hard to lose part of that. We wish the best for Barry.”

Andrea Saffle, executive director of Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association, said Herring will be missed.

“We do feel it is a loss,” she said. “The store was a unique offering.

“It was a cool and hip place, but we’re happy for him that he is is looking forward to trying something new.”

Saffle said she doesn’t think the closing will hurt the economy of historic downtown, which has been booming in recent years.

“Anytime a store closes it’s a loss, but we have had a few inquiries about available space,” she said. “I feel we can fill that space relatively quickly.

“I’ve talked to a couple of different people who are looking for retail space, but we do hate to lose Barry as a merchant.”

Herring feels bad that he is leaving his long-time customers in the lurch to pursue his personal dreams.

“We don’t have to close,” he said. “That almost makes it harder.

“People depend on me to get them the books they want.”

Herring has been holding a 40 percent off sale since October. It will continue until his last day. Until then, he’ll continue reading comic books and maybe even get a little encouragement from them.

“These stories have grown with the readers,” he said. “I had a customer come in who had recently left his job to take a chance.”

The customer had been reading an Aquaman comic book.

“Aquaman was talking to his father and said, ‘It’s difficult to do the right thing, but you know it in your heart.’”

Herring is leaving his job to take his own chance.

“Maybe it resonates with you because of what you’ve gone through,” he said. “There’s your life lesson.”

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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