Jim Drucker is living proof that a man not only can learn to appreciate some nagging from his wife, but also build a thriving, innovative company as a result of it.
In Drucker's case, it is Norristown-based NewKadia.com, launched in 2000 and believed to be the only dedicated online comic-book dealer.
Its inventory is 750,000; its average annual sales is 200,000 books, with profitability a constant since the second year.
Revenue, Drucker said, is in the "low seven figures."
Comics are just the beginning if the former head of the Continental Basketball Association and Arena Football League, and onetime legal commentator on ESPN, accomplishes his ultimate goal of building "the world's most efficient sales platform for used products."
A life-size Iron Man cutout stands near his desk. Drucker said the reason behind that expansion plan is this concern:
"Superheroes will have their day. I'm aware this will have its day."
But for now, the 62-year-old Plymouth Meeting resident is reveling in their popularity, growing his retirement nest egg thanks to a collection of 500 comic books he amassed between the ages of 6 and 10 while growing up in East Meadow, Long Island.
When he got older, his mother used to pester him to start tossing what she viewed as unnecessary clutter. It would later become the refrain of his wife.
Finally, in 1999, after Drucker had retired from his Arena Football League post and sold his option to buy a team back to the league, he turned to his comic books. Impressed with returns on two he sold on eBay, Drucker taught himself how to set up an e-commerce site.
From a biography on Eastman Kodak Co. founder George Eastman came inspiration for the name NewKadia. It said memorable names contain the letters K, Q, Z, or X. From further research, Drucker learned that three words in particular are hot marketing terms: free, sex, and new.
The first day he launched www.newkadia.com, he got three orders - from New York City, Casper, Wyo., and Sydney, Australia - and concluded "that there was something here."
After two weeks, he moved the business out of his house into a small office. Six months after that, he moved again, into four times the space. But inventory kept growing "because people were writing in saying, 'I have a bunch of comics. Will you sell mine, too?' "
Next came the move to the old soap factory on Noble Street that has been NewKadia.com's headquarters, warehouse, and fulfillment center since May 2010. Currently, 53.4 percent of the inventory is from consignors, who get 50 to 80 percent of the sale price minus a $4-per-book fee. The rest is 250,000 comic books Drucker bought for a nickel a piece.
The engine behind this venture of "double-digit" annual growth (for all years but recession-impacted 2009) are algorithms developed by Drucker, who has a bachelor's degree in political science and communication from the University of Buffalo and a law degree from Duke University. Prices of every comic book are adjusted daily at 4 a.m., based on supply and demand.
NewKadia's current top-five comic books by sales are:
Amazing Spider-Man, 1963 series; X-Men, 1963; Fantastic Four, 1961; Batman, 1940; Daredevil, 1964.
The key demographic are men ages 25 to 54. The typical customer will spend $403.17 in three years.
NewKadia.com's technology also makes recommendations to customers based on their searching and buying history. Consequently, every repeat customer sees a personalized website, where detailed descriptions are given of any comic book offered. NewKadia's customer base is 90,000.
A high-tech inventory system enables a staff of two full-timers and five part-timers to fill orders at superhero speed. The record - held by Perry Kern - is an average of 401 books picked per hour for the entire week of April 8, 2013. Incentive bonuses are based on total production divided by hours worked.
NewKadia designed packaging to prevent bent book corners during delivery.
One of NewKadia's first consignors was Joe Koch, a New York comic-book dealer since 1975 with a warehouse in Brooklyn. Since 2004, Koch has sent 110,000 comic books to NewKadia.com to sell, with 42,000 remaining in its inventory, he said.
"He's unique," Koch said of Drucker's all-online operation. "He far surpasses anyone who is doing this on the efficiency side."
Drucker's goal now is to replicate that for other used products, such as board games and dinnerware.
How does all this sit with the woman who just wanted less in the basement?
"The end result is just unbelievable," said Fran Drucker.
With the exception of Millie the Model and the adventures of Veronica and Archie, comics were not the retired teacher's passion.
"I'm not a hero person," she said. "I've seen some Spider-Man movies. It's not my particular thing."
That her husband of 41 years found a way to capitalize on comic-book fandom seems to have thrust him into a sort of Superman status with her.
"He's an extraordinary person," Fran Drucker said. "I am very proud."
BY THE NUMBERS
Inventory for NewKadia.com.
sold per year.
Age range of men who are the key demographic customer.
Amount the typical customer will spend in three years.