Getting a Lineup with Sean Mack, Barbershop/Comic Shop Owner!

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In 2013, Sean Mack founded Short Fuse Media Group, an independent comic publishing company that produced and released over 100 comics. Short Fuse helped a bunch of creators bring their titles to life. In 2021, Mack retired only to return to comics two years later as a retailer, founding Cuts And Comics in Newnan, GA, the first barbershop and comic book store combined in 2023.

I was able to snatch Mack from his busy schedule to talk about his venture into his barbershop-comic as a businessman and what it takes to open up said business! This is quite an informative interview, one that I think all creators, be it comics or other business ventures, should read!

Sean Mack at Cuts And Comics. Photo credit Cuts and Comics.

Greg Anderson Elysée: Mr. Sean Mack! How are you, brother? How have things been?

Sean Mack: I’m doing well. Overwhelmed a bit at times, but well. Everything in my life has been on an incline so I really can’t complain. Plus I get the honor of being interviewed by one of the greats!  

Elysée: Ever the charmer. So I hit you up today to talk about Cuts And Comics. What exactly is Cuts And Comics and when did this idea come to mind?

Mack: Cuts And Comics is a business concept that I came up with that combined a barbershop with a comic book store. My first experience with comics came when my Dad took me to the barbershop when I was a little kid. There was a magazine rack in the barbershop that had a ton of magazines that I wasn’t interested in at all. But on a table in the shop was a few random comic books. One of them was Batman vs. Predator. I knew who Batman was and I knew who Predator was, but I was curious why they were fighting in this book. So I picked it up and started reading it. I was a comic fan from that point. 

Fast forward a few years later, I worked as the Warehouse Manager for a multi-store comic retailer in the Detroit area named Comic City. I learned a TON from the owners, Bob and Jill Smethers, about the business. So the inkling to run my own comic book store began at that point. As the years progressed and I saw a ton of comic shops closing for a multitude of reasons, I noticed one commonality: margins on comic book sales were extremely thin, so if the comic books weren’t the main selling point, then a comic book store needed something else to bring people into the door that would generate revenue. Then the light bulb came on… people will always need haircuts, and I read my first comic book at a barbershop. Why not combine the two? Couple that with the fact that I just so happened to marry a barber and I think it was meant to work out this way. So my wife, Ragan, and I decided to pursue opening a location.   

Outside Cuts And Comics. Photo credit Cuts and Comics.

Elysée: When did you start the movement of the wheels to get this idea started?
Mack: Though it seemed like a long time ago, it really wasn’t as things progressed fairly quickly. We started all of the paperwork to legally form Cuts And Comics, LLC. in June of 2023. In Georgia, you have to have the physical location before licenses are granted and as this was two businesses in one, we needed multiple types of licenses. Ragan found and secured the location while I was traveling for business and we took possession of the building in October of 2023. We spent the rest of the year remodeling, stocking the location and hiring staff while all of the licensing was being processed. Licensing cleared by the end of the year and we opened the doors for business on January 6th of 2024.

Inside Cuts And Comics. Photo credit Cuts and Comics.

Elysée: Now I’mma do something a little different here – as I’m sure some creators and aspiring business owners are curious but may not always get this answer – what exactly is LLC and why is this important for us? And what is the general process like?

Mack: That’s a great question! LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. It’s a business structure that gives a bit more protection to the owners because it allows for the business to stand as its own thing away from the owners with regards to taxation as well as liabilities. What that basically means is that if you have an LLC and someone decides to sue your company for any reason, your personal assets will not be included as items up for grabs in that lawsuit. I personally think it’s extremely important for indie comic creators based on the tax benefits alone. Any business that a creator owns personally (outright) is viewed as a sole proprietorship. Legally that just means that company is owned by that person.

For any creator that is doing their taxes regularly that owns a business, any income that they make from their business becomes a part of their earned income that they are supposed to report on their personal taxes. That can move a creator into an undesired portion of a new tax bracket potentially causing them to owe the IRS more money in taxes. Another good example that applies to creators would be the use of platforms like Kickstarter. Assuming a creator operating a sole proprietorship the correct way and again, filing their personal taxes regularly, any earnings from the platform would need to be claimed as earned income on the owner’s personal taxes.

And the IRS is surely going to want their cut of those earnings. Imagine hitting that 20k mark on a Kickstarter and owing the IRS taxes on that 20k. Yikes! Having the protection of an LLC would mean that those earnings were revenue generated from the business and the tax situation would be drastically different because from those earnings, the LLC owner can write off things like production costs, printing and shipping as expenses to offset the amount that could actually be taxed. I’m over simplifying a bit for the purpose of this interview but I would highly suggest any creator that is using their creative efforts as a business to research which option would be best for their business. The process is fairly simple in most cases. There are services like Rocket Lawyer that can walk anyone through it at minimal costs or if you have extra cash around you could also have an attorney set everything up for you.  

Inside Cuts And Comics. Photo credit Cuts and Comics.

Elysée: Thank you for that, Sean! Moving forward with the interview, you were the head publisher of Short Fuse and you announced the end sometime last year or two years ago. What prompted this?

Mack: Short Fuse Media Group took off a lot faster than I anticipated. With Short Fuse Media Group, I felt like we had accomplished so much in an extremely short amount of time that many of the creators were becoming okay with the status quo and I felt we should have been in a better position than what we actually were from an overall business perspective. I really wanted a change of direction for the company that I didn’t think the creators wanted at the time. That didn’t sit well with me. I had published over one hundred comic books and they were all creator-owned. Only one of those titles was mine. We were in a great space from a financial perspective to be honest. But the direction that I saw would have posed a few setbacks as we would have needed to reset a few things. Projects would have needed to be pushed back. And overall that would have affected the creators that as a unit, were now accustomed to forward movement. So Instead of forcing the direction that I wanted onto creators and their IPs, I decided to release everyone from their contracts to pursue their own directions. I always had the intent of returning to comics. But I wanted to focus on my own stories when I did. It was a hard choice to make as the company was positioned really well. But in order to make the company better, in my opinion, the operation that we had needed to be completely overhauled. 

Elysée: What has running Short Fuse taught you for this new venture?

Mack: In preparation for running Cuts And Comics, it primarily taught me to stay focused on the direction that I see for the company and stick to that. With Short Fuse, I made a ton of accommodations that benefitted the creators more so than the company. In the end, while it may have looked great publicly, some of those accommodations hindered growth on the business end of the company. So I learned that keeping the focus on the original business concept is extremely important.  

Elysée: What have you learned about becoming a new store owner?

Mack: I’ve learned that it’s hard to get creators to send you stock. [Laughs] Honestly coming from the publishing side, it’s been a lot to adapt to. Distribution is a mess right now and I can see how store owners are struggling through that and need to get their retailer discounts to survive. I can also see how creators are fighting to get every dollar they can. I see the struggle from both ends. But I love it honestly. I like solving challenges. Beyond that, marketing the shop to the community to get people to come in has been the biggest lesson learned as things that I would have done for marketing as a publisher are vastly different from what needs to be done as a store owner. So it’s been some adjusting for sure. 

Elysée: While it’s still a fresh shop, what have you already encountered that you would warn aspiring business owners about or against doing?

Mack: One of the things I would warn aspiring businesses to ensure is that they are monitoring their opening expenses. By that, I mean: focus on generating only the necessary expenses in the beginning and then scale up as your business begins to grow and become profitable. For example: we have an account with multiple distributors to get books into the shop because as I stated earlier, distribution is a mess right now. Having these accounts means that I have to make a minimum purchase amount from each of these distributors. In order to hit those minimums, I would essentially need to order a bunch of products that I either don’t need or don’t want, just to get the product from the distributors that I actually want. I didn’t want to generate that type of expense before we were making any money so I opted to order directly from the various indie publishers to get my store staffed the way that I wanted. Once revenue reaches the point where I’m comfortable with paying those minimums, I scale the business up to that. But starting off, that wouldn’t be a good business model.  

Inside Cuts And Comics. Photo credit Cuts and Comics.

Elysée: Makes sense. I hope aspiring business owners are taking notes! Now how has the reception been since opening shop?

Mack: The reception has been really great overall. The community has been really supportive of the business as well as the concept. Customers love the vibe when they come into the shop as we try to make it a welcoming environment with conversations that everyone can jump into like the old school barbershops… just without the cursing and arguing. [Laughs] The conversations range from comics to movies and television to wrestling but always venture into whatever pop culture we loved as children. We get people from all walks of life in the shop as well so it’s been really cool to see how different people can all appreciate what we are building. 

Elysée: What prompted you to only focus on indie comics – majority Black indie comics – than the mainstream? Many would say that’s a tricky and risky move. 

Mack: It was two-fold really. For starters, there are two other comic book stores near us. I figured if people wanted to get mainstream Marvel or DC books, they could get them at those other shops. Most of the comics that are at my shop, especially the Black titles, aren’t at any of the other shops in my city. Beyond that, we’re a small business within our community. We wanted to showcase that we support small businesses in our own special way. Indie comic creators are all small business owners. So by us carrying primarily indie comic books, we’re showing our community that we are supporting small businesses within our product selection. When we explain that to our customers, they love it and want to support it as well. 

Inside Cuts And Comics. Photo credit Cuts and Comics.

Secondly, the barbershop side of the business was what we were banking on to drive the revenue. This has panned out exactly as planned as the barbershop has been performing exceptionally well. The fact that retail sales are an added bonus to our business as opposed to our primary business gives us a bit of flexibility on what we carry as well as what we choose to not carry. This heavily influenced my decision to focus primarily on indie comics. Again, I felt we needed to have something that would always bring customers into the shop to help mitigate the risks. The barbershop does that on a daily basis. It’s just up to us to get those customers to take a chance on trying out some indie comics while they are there. We have a good amount of regulars already. So I’d say so far it’s been going good.  

Elysée: So we’re gonna wrap up here, but what can customers expect with your shop moving forward? Any planned events? Free Comic Book Day is also around the corner.

Mack: Since FCBD caters to shops that primarily focus on Marvel and DC and falls on Star Wars Day this year (May the 4th), we’re going to skip the FCBD festivities and focus on celebrating Star Wars Day at Cuts And Comics this year. Knowing Ragan, we’ll have some sort of themed event going on and we’ll couple that with the fact that every customer that comes in to get a haircut will get some free Star Wars swag. As far as events, I’m trying to put something together for Urban NerdCon at the shop but that’s still being pieced together so nothing has been finalized.  

Elysée: Thanks for your time, Sean! Best of luck with everything and I can’t wait to stop by when I’m in town!

Mack: Looking forward to it. Shameless Plug…All comic creators get “Friends and Family” prices on haircuts and beard trims if you’re in town for a con or whatever. 

Elysée: (gasps) Bet!

Visit Cuts And Comics in the Georgia area at 702 US-29, Newnan, GA 30263 ! Or follow them on Facebook and/or Instagram to show support against the algorithms! 


Greg Anderson Elysée is a Brooklyn-born Haitian-American writer, educator, filmmaker, personal trainer, and model. Elysée previously wrote for theOuthousers.com, where he ran his own column, (Heard It Thru) The Griotvine, showcasing independent creators of color and LGBTQ creators, as well as writing for Bleeding Cool.

Elysée’s original comic series “Is’nana the Were-Spider” is a seven-time Glyph Award Winner.

His other work includes “Akim Aliu: Dreamer: Growing Up Black in the World of Hockey,” published by Scholastic Inc. and Kaepernick Publishing, “OneNation: Stronghold,” published by 133art Publishing, “I Dream of Home” in the Lion Forge graphic novel collection and Eisner Award-winning “Puerto Rico Strong,” and “Tyrone and Jamal” in the GLAAD Award-winning “Young Men in Love.” He lives in Brooklyn.



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