Just off the red line at Davis Square, a local comic book shop called Comicazi is abuzz with the warm energy that only arises from the community that inhabits a small business. Its walls are crowded with collectibles: board games, action figures, and of course an endless supply of graphic novels and comic books. However, its size and success as a brick and mortar store in an internet economy is not the only remarkable thing about Comicazi — the shop’s owner, Bob Howard, has also found an innovative way for Comicazi to support the causes close to his heart.
Each year, the shop hosts an event called the Cookie Clash—an annual baking competition that takes place inside the store itself, and was devised initially by the staff to benefit one of their friends who needed help with medical bills.
The event has three categories: chocolate chip, bars (such as brownies), and a wild card round in which contestants may bake anything they wish. “One person did custard and fish sticks,” Howard recalled, referring to the cult sci-fi series, Dr. Who, who often eats fish sticks in custard. “She made a fish stick cookie that goes in a little cup. I mean, they definitely have some interesting looking cookies,” he said.
The cookies are judged by a panel of experts sourced from local bakeries and authors of cookbooks. After the judging, the cookies are available to the public who are free to eat as many as they want for an admission cost of $10. Attendees pick the cookies they like best to reward fan favorites with a “People’s Choice” award. “People were excited about it [the event], so we were like, okay, how do we ramp it up a little bit?” said Howard.
Boston Partners in Education became involved through Bob’s wife, Erin McGrath, who is the Program Director for Boston Partners. “Cookie Clash is my baby,” she says. “It’s my job to find bakers, my job to try and promote it. And then of course, I always bake for it every single year.”
The event allows Bob to use his store to help causes he cares about, even though his store can’t make a large direct donation. Erin explains, “He set a goal. He wanted to raise a certain amount of money for Boston Partners. And it wasn’t something that he was just going to be able to donate. The store couldn’t just give this amount of money. I want to say it was $5000, and I believe he’s far surpassed that. But he figured he could just do these small events and really pull it all together.”
Cookie Clash is not the only event that Comicazi runs for Boston Partners. Comic Shop All-Stars, an invitation-only trivia night, pits comic shops in and around Boston against each other to test their knowledge against difficult questions. This year, ten teams competed, including Boston’s Comicopia, Somerville’s Hub Comics, and the staff from Comic-Con. “It was this idea of bringing all of these stores and other professionals together and really having time for them to have a community that wasn’t just about buying and selling stuff,” explains Erin. Comicazi also hosts a tag sale to benefit Boston Partners.
Howard felt that the mission of Boston Partners was well-suited to both his personal values and the goals of his business. He explained that his mother, a teacher, used the stories he was interested in as a way to boost his reading. “When I was younger, I had a very hard time reading. I was a slow reader. It was very difficult for me to get through, but when I cracked through, I couldn’t stop. I read voraciously. We all know who turned us on to a great story. Starting that out as early as possible is important.”
“We like the idea of mentorship, and we like the idea of someone reading to a child and teaching them that any way you can escape through reading is just joy. And there is nothing better than a great story. This shop right here is about stories,” said Howard.