Monkeys Retreat Comix History
Art by Bob Burden
Stan Bobrof and Ro-z & Darryl Mendelson opened Monkeys Retreat – A Space Age Variety Store on June 1st 1975. The store was on N. High St., 5 blocks north of O.S.U. 1/2 of the store was a Tai Chi Studio offering lessons by Dr. Fred Wu. Monkeys Retreat was named after a movement from their Tai Chi form. They sold many different items but their specialty was underground comix. Though not part of their original plan, they started selling Marvel & DC superhero comics and became one of the first direct market comic specialty shops.
Stan & Darryl first started selling underground comix in their head shop/boutique, Charlie’s Guitar from 1968-69, before Ro-z moved to Columbus. The alternative comics scene of the 1980’s & 90’s could be considered the second wave of underground comix. The first was in the late 60’s. The most well known of those artists was Robert Crumb. He created Mr. Natural, Big Ass Comix, Fritz The Cat, and many others and coined the expression “Keep On Trucking”. He was also one of the creators of Zap Comix which along with The Fabulous Furry Freak Bros. were the most well known underground comix titles at the time.
The second wave of underground comics centered around two publications by two veterans of the first wave. That was Robert Crumb and Weirdo Comix and art Spiegelman and Raw. The Book of Weirdo documents the contrasting attitudes of those publications and the artists, publishers and other players involved. There is an entire page devoted to the store SoHoZat which was the first place to sell Raw. SoHoZat opened at 307 W. Broadway in SoHo in Manhattan in 1977 under the ownership of Stan, Darryl & Ro-z. Stan Bobrof ran the store till it closed in 1992. Alan Fliegel was his part-time partner till 1982. Darryl, who had been ordering many of the publications while still in Columbus, moved to N.Y. and worked with Stan till 1988.
For more on Monkeys Retreats’ history see the article published in the Short North Gazette from 2007. The article contains a few inaccuracies notably listing the wrong dates that the two stores opened. Monkeys Retreat opened in 1975 and SoHoZat in 1977.