Christina Lee, Photography Editor

Tucked away in a corner off Chapel Street, Alternate Universe overflows with thousands of titles for comic book lovers in New Haven. 

Alternate Universe is a comic book store that has served readers in Connecticut for over 25 years. The New Haven store opened in 1995, and in 2005, co-owners Joseph Stinson and Erik Yacko decided to expand their business by opening a second location in Milford. Since then, Stinson has operated the New Haven location while Yacko oversees the Milford location. The store has formed a community with regular customers as well as some new Yale students every semester. 

Alternate Universe keeps comic books super in New Haven

“With comic books, there’s an ebb and flow. When a new TV show or new movie comes out, there’ll be a few new readers, but most people have been collecting for a while,” Stinson said. “With Yale, we get a little turnover every four years because new people come in and begin getting comics, our store becoming their favorite shop.”

The extended history of Alternate Universe, however, begins in the 1980s. In the 80s, Alternate Universe was originally named Paperback Trader. The comic book store was then bought by a different company called Dream Factory, which operated as a chain of stores throughout Connecticut. Dream Factory then became Moondogs, where Stinson and Yacko were working at the time. After Moondogs went out of business, Stinson and Yacko took over the store in 1996.

It was through Dream Factory that Stinson and Yacko befriended Rich Casiglio, who loves comic books and has worked with them his whole life. In 2005, during their expansion into Milford, the owners contacted Casiglio and hired him as an employee of Alternate Universe in New Haven. In his day-to-day working at Alternate Universe, he takes care of customers and restocks the store. 

As an employee, Casiglio recognizes the familiar faces of Alternate Universe’s loyal shoppers. 

“The majority of comic book store customers are regulars. You see them weekly or bi-weekly,” said Casiglio. 

A handful of Yale students frequent the store weekly, too, he said. 

With a steady number of regulars who patronize the store, Alternate Universe does not prioritize advertising. 

“​​It’s more so that people find us more than we find people because us advertising isn’t going to turn anybody into a comic book fan that isn’t already one,” Stinson said. 

The store has found comfort in its narrower reach, however. Though serving a tight niche, Alternate Universe offers a wide array of comic books for its loyal customers. The store carries indie, action, superhero, slice of life and manga selections. 

Regulars like Mikai Chamber appreciate the selections available at the store. Chambers has lived in New Haven for a decade and has been shopping at Alternate Universe for three years. Here, Chambers has found a home for his love of comic books, which began in his youth with Spider-Man and has since expanded into the indie genre. 

“They’ve got it all. From trade paperbacks, omnibuses, hardcovers, back issues – whatever you need,” Chambers told the news. 

Looking ahead, Stinson hopes to make room for more comics now that they’ve maxed out their space. 

According to Stinson, the possibility of opening a third location has been discussed, but remains an idea for now. 

“The one thing I want to try to do is focus on what we carry a little bit more and start getting some ancillary items out just so we have more room for comics,” Stinson said.

Alternate Universe is open every day on 1181 Chapel St.