In 1988, Kathy Sprague quit her job in restaurant management to open Safari Pearl Comics. Sprague said she was tired of working for someone else and thought a comic book shop would be a fun investment.
“I think it”s fun,” Sprague said. “The whole point of the store is to have fun.”
Sprague said she believes the store not only has a unique mix of products and is enjoyable, but that it”s also established a community of people who keep coming back.
Yet, Sprague said the community is not the only enjoyable part of her job.
“The best part of my job is bringing my dogs to work with me,” she said.
Missy and Maxime, the shop”s two canine assistants, are valued members of the shop”s staff.
Safari Pearl co-owner Tabitha Simmons said the dogs come into work with them every morning.
“They”re a big part of the experience,” Simmons said. “There are any number of students who have left their dog at home and can”t have their pets in the dorms or apartment that they”re in. So they come in here and get their doggy fix. These guys sit for hours with people petting them each day.”
Simmons, who has worked at the shop since 1999, said the dogs contribute much to the shop”s environment.
In 1998 Sprague expanded her business to a neighboring store space and opened Eclectica, an adult merchandise store.
“It”s a safe space for a lot of people to experiment and explore themselves,” Sprague said.
In addition to Safari Pearl Comics and Eclectica, Sprague and Simmons also manage Tabikat Productions, a group of drag performers who recently hosted their 21st anniversary show.
Sprague said she loves that Moscow is such a uniquely accepting place.
“There are a lot of different people with a lot of different beliefs, but we all get along because we”re all neighbors,” Sprague said.
Simmons said the community they”ve built with Tabikat Productions is closely tied to Safari Pearl and Eclectica.
“A lot of people who are exploring gender boundaries and things like that feel comfortable coming in here,” she said. “It”s just a safe place to be around affirming people who just live life every day.”
Simmons said the store has given them a platform to help members of the LGBTQA community as they take their first steps toward coming out.
“We provide a safe place for people to be able to do that,” Simmons said. “It”s a place to come pick up your rainbow sticker or whatever else it is that you need.”
Washington State University and University of Idaho graduate Tim Mace began working at Safari Pearl Comics late last year and said it has been a rewarding experience.
“All the people I work with are really friendly and I really enjoy working for Tabitha and Kathy,” Mace said.
He said the store has a very welcoming atmosphere and offers products customers have a hard time finding anywhere else.
Simmons said the best part of her experiences with Safari Pearl Comics, Eclectica and Tabikat Productions has been feeling as if she has become a big part of the place she lives.
“Here we each have an opportunity to make a unique contribution and we”ve carved out a noticeable place for ourselves,” Simmons said.