When you walk into Sour Cherry Comics, you’ll likely get a warm welcome from the store’s furry greeter, Benny. The colorful displays of comic books, graphic novels, and toys draw your eye in every direction. Proudly lesbian-owned, the space feels inviting and inclusive. “I didn’t want it to feel like, ‘oh, here’s your little queer corner,’” owner Leah Morrett explains. In order to foster a sense of community organized around art and social justice, Leah partners with local artists and activists to host events such as book clubs, writing workshops, and pen pal letter writing sessions for incarcerated LGBTQ+ people.

Growing up, Leah always looked forward to spending time in comic book stores with her dad. She loved the classics, like Betty & Veronica by Archie Comics. But when she hit puberty, Leah started to feel uncomfortable in the male-dominated atmosphere that most comic book stores exuded. So she disappeared into the manga aisle of her local Barnes & Noble, where she felt like she could blend in and read to her heart’s content without attracting unwanted attention. Her dream was to one day open her own comic book store where women, queer people, and those who felt that they didn’t fit the typical comic book-loving mold could not only feel welcomed, but actively catered to as part of the community.

After working for years in retail, the pandemic served as a wake-up call for Leah. Her childhood dream of owning her own book store came to the forefront of her plans, and she worked diligently toward making that dream a reality. She wanted to make sure she could get a business plan put together, so she enrolled in business classes at the City College of San Francisco. Her retail management experience prepared her well for understanding how to properly stock inventory as well as the demands of customer service. She also spoke with local comic store owners and small business owners in order to build out realistic financial projections and expectations for dealing with the difficult commercial real estate market and permitting processes in the city.

From her courses and industry discussions, Leah knew that she would need a loan in order to get her new business up and running, so she turned to the credit union where she did her personal banking. But as a startup business owner, she didn’t qualify for a loan. Her banker referred her to Main Street Launch, where she worked with Adrian Gomez Zavala. “Adrian was so patient with me throughout the whole process,” Leah recalls. “He guided me through each step and provided the flexibility I needed while working a full time retail job.”

Sour Cherry Comics received a $40,000 loan from Main Street Launch to cover startup expenses including rent, utilities, and cash reserves. With this funding, the business opened its doors in March 2022. Sour Cherry hosts workshops for writers, artists, and children in its large and inviting back area, and will soon host a popup magic store as well. ​​Follow them on Instagram to keep up with their upcoming events and new store items.