Indie Northern Kentucky brings zines, alternative comics to NKY

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If you’ve walked past Petri’s Floral in Bellevue recently, you may have noticed a new addition to their storefront: the logo for INK, a new business sharing their retail space. 

INK stands for “Indie Northern Kentucky.” They describe themselves as “Northern Kentucky’s zine, alternative comics, self-published, and small press bookstore.” Starting in June, INK will share retail space with Petri’s Floral at 229 Fairfield Avenue in Bellevue.

INK specializes in zines, but what exactly does that mean?

Art Equals, a Covington-based arts organization, defines a zine as “a self-published and often handcrafted magazine that focuses on any topic known to the human and alien kind.” INK creators Tom and Ren Boeing add to that explanation, saying that zines are usually created in small batches. Tom and Ren have been buying, supporting, making, and celebrating zines for years.

Ren Boeing explained that when someone makes a zine or other DIY/small press book and someone else picks it up to read, they essentially tell each other, “You are not alone; you are not the only person who feels this way.” 

This concept of connection through the small press is a common interest throughout the zine community. It is something that the creators of INK treasure and hope to bring to Northern Kentucky. 

Tom and Ren Boeing are passionate advocates of small press and decided to channel that energy into a business. 

They’re married, they have a 2-year-old at home, and are both employed full-time. On top of all of that, they are active supporters of the arts in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati and have been creating opportunities for zine artists in the area for several years now. 

The Boeings call themselves “Bellevue people.” They have lived in the city for almost six years and are certainly in love with and committed to this community.

“We like the Bellevue community and it’s very fun. Bellevue has a lot of events, like the First Friday, every month. First Friday is usually themed and everyone comes out and the businesses are open later,” Ren Boeing said. 

They were referring to “First Friday,” an event that started as an Art Walk and has now been embraced by many local businesses. It’s a day to have fun and for local businesses to show what they are offering to the community. INK is looking forward to participating in this event. 

Tom Boeing brings extensive experience with small business to the operation. His family founded Hart Pharmacy in Price Hill and have been open since 1960. 

“I grew up in that space. I’ve always wanted that and been familiar with small business stuff. However, my business hasn’t been pharmacy. I’ve been more interested in zines, comics, and all that kind of stuff,” Tom Boeing said. 

Tom Boeing also explained that much of his experience with zines came from his time in college.

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“I went to college in Chicago,” Boeing said. “Chicago has a huge alternative comics zine, so I was exposed to so much up there.”

Both Tom and Ren Boeing have been creating different types of art and zines for many years. With all their experience in the field, they still refuse to call zine making exclusive or difficult. 

Their ethos very much aligns with Art Equals in that they believe art is for everyone. Anyone can make a zine. Additionally, the process of creating a zine can be just as fulfilling as the reward of the final product. The Boeings are massive proponents of the accessibility of this art form.

As artists and supporters of the arts, they have been going to zine fests across the country, especially in the Midwest, including those in Columbus, Chicago, and Indianapolis. However, they noticed that there was no region-wide gathering of zine makers, small press advocates, and comic artists in the Cincinnati area. In 2019, they decided to do something about that.

“When I moved home, I started making my own comics and stuff and found that we had to travel for shows.” Tom Boeing said. “We had to go to Columbus and Indianapolis. And there wasn’t anything here. We saw people from here all the time though, at these fests. So we found a group of people, there was a community for something like that here, but nobody was doing anything. And so we did our show, Cincinnati. So far, they’ve been pretty successful enough for us to keep going. So while we’re [opening INK], we’re also planning on doing a third installment [of Zinecinnati].”

Ren Boeing said that the 2023 Zinecinnati event will likely take place in September. 

Zinecinnati is an annual festival which brings together zines and their artists from all around the Ohio River Valley. The event has been postponed due to COVID these past few years, but they are back in 2022 and plan to host another event in September of 2023. 

Indie Northern Kentucky is an extension of the goal and mindset that spawned Zinecinnati. The Boeings realized that while Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati have a lot of comic shops and even record shops with zine racks, there wasn’t a dedicated spot for selling, submitting, and exchanging zines in our area. 

After moving to Bellevue, Tom and Ren Boeing noticed that the area didn’t have a small press or DIY bookstore. They kept waiting for someone to make something like this, for people in their community. “

And it just never came,” Tom Boeing said. “Finally it got to the point, same thing with Zinecinnati, where we said ‘I guess we’ll do it.’” 

However, rather than being a temporary, ephemeral place for zines to exist, like a fest, Indie Northern Kentucky is here to stay.

The Boeings explain that it all came together like a perfect storm. They first started planning INK in February of 2023.

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“We were talking with Nola and Alex and then ran [Petri’s Floral], which they took over in 2020,” Ren Boeing said. “And they were like, well, if you really want to do it, we’d be happy to share the retail space with you. That helps us sort of get our feet wet without having to take on too many things.” 

Their partnership with Petri’s Floral will allow INK to keep regular hours, continually accept submissions, and even host events in the future. 

INK will also sell other creators’ zines through a consignment agreement. Creators can fill out the consignment agreement form and bring their zines (through mail or by coming into the shop) for INK to display and offer for sale. The creator sets the price and INK gets a 50% commission on each sale. It is up to the creators to keep in touch with INK to see how their sales are and whether any of their products need to be restocked. 

Some of the zines that have already been submitted to INK for consignment selling. Photo by Kathleen Bryant | LINK nky contributor

This feature mirrors business models of some other zine and alternative bookstores. 

The Boeings see their business, like a zine, as part of a larger movement and conversation. They are proud to name their inspirations and what businesses and organizations that have lent them the support necessary to create INK. 

Petri’s Floral has been a massive help to INK not only in sharing their space, but also in guiding them through the process of creating a small business.

“We ask them all of the boring business questions,” Tom Boeing said. “Because they’ve navigated all of the small business stuff before.”

Tom and Ren Boeing also cite some giants within zine culture, such as Quimby’s in Chicago.

Tom called Quimby’s “the gold standard for zine culture.” He continued to say, “I really, really love that store and the way that they have been able to embrace zines and small press is so inspiring.”

They also praise many Midwest zine fests that they have visited. Those fests gave them the space to explore this art form and meet others like them. Specifically, they mentioned the Chicago Zine Fest and Kentucky Fried Zine Fest. They put special emphasis on SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) and its creator, Bob Corby, which Ren called “ground zero” for their combined love of zines.

Tom and Ren Boeing also mentioned several local businesses that paved the way, inspired, and supported them in creating INK. They are grateful to Jacqueline Wood, owner of Manga Manga, a Japanese comic bookstore in College Hill, Cincinnati for her advice and expertise on opening an independent bookstore. 

Additionally, Roebling Point Coffee & Books and Lil’s Kitchen (formerly Lil’s Bagels), both bold representations of alternative culture in Northern Kentucky, have offered a foundation and inspiration for INK. 

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The Boeings say that they are very lucky to have so many friends they can go to and lean on for support, especially in terms of providing information.

“We just basically asked our friends and I think that kind of propelled it,” Ren Boeing said.

More than just a store, Tom and Ren Boeing would like INK to serve as a hub for DIY and small press creators in the area.

“We want to build that community more and give it a place that is its own,” Ren Boeing said. “We can get together and chit chat because that’s usually the best part about [zine fests]. We can ask ‘how did you do this?’ or what their inspiration is.”

Ren Boeing said that zine creators are often so scattered throughout the world that they can get isolated in their work. A place like INK is a remedy for that.

“It’s nice to have a place where people can get together and talk about that kind of stuff or see other work,” Ren Boeing said. “We want to bring that kind of feeling, inspiration, and community vibe to a location where people go on a regular basis.”

Tom and Ren Boeing offered LINK a tour of the store before opening.

As previously mentioned, INK is integrated with Petris Floral. Their products are displayed throughout the shop, seamlessly blending with the vibrant plants for sale. They have a table where free publications and stickers are available to anyone who comes in.

They’ve got a shelf focusing specifically on comics. There, they have copies of popular indie comic magazine, The Nib and books from Alison Bechdel, renowned comic artist. 

They have a corner with comfortable seating that features books on grief (including Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder) next to those focusing on wicca, tarot, and spirituality. Dispersed throughout the space, they have an assortment of independent periodicals such as The Anarchist Review of Books and the Columbus Scribbler, a quarterly zine that promotes established and upcoming comic artists in Central Ohio. 

Their crown jewel, and the focus of their operation, is what they call “The Wall.”

The Wall is a mounted structure where they will display many of the zines that they sell through the consignment agreement. At the time of this interview, it had not yet been constructed, though the Boeings were passionate in their descriptions. 

Unlike a traditional bookshelf and more like an open-concept magazine rack, The Wall will allow for outward facing zines, so the viewer can see their covers. It will be designed and arranged to facilitate an aesthetically pleasing and cohesive browsing experience. If it looks chaotic, that’s part of its charm.

INK will open for business on June 2. Until then, they are accepting submissions for consignment and encourage people to put their work out there. 

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