Tony's Kingdom of Comics and Collectibles offers an array of free comics in return for a food donation. (KEIZERTIMES/Joey Cappelletti)
Tony Grove and Paul Elliott probably aren’t maximizing profits.
Grove, the owner of Tony’s Kingdom of Comics and Collectibles, gives away free comic books. Elliott, the owner of Uptown Music, gives out free $10 gift cards and puts on free concerts.
While Grove and Elliott may not directly benefit from these free offerings, hundreds of families throughout the Keizer area have.
For more than a decade, Grove’s and Elliott’s shops have fundraised thousands of dollars worth of food and cash donations for the Keizer Community Food Bank. These free giveaways act as a way to incentivize customers.
“We believe nobody should go hungry. So it seemed pretty straightforward to us that when we held events and concerts and things like that, while some people would charge actual money for a ticket, we would always ask for a canned food donation,” said Elliot, who’s owned Uptown Music with his wife for seven years.
Elliott, who was the manager before becoming the owner, has been at Uptown Music for 23 years in total. He said the shop has put on fundraisers and given to food banks the entirety of the time he’s been there.
“Everybody that works here at some point or another has been in a tight spot before. And through the kindness of others was able to kind of make it through some rough times,” Elliott said.
While many give without incentive, the shop puts on special fundraisers during times of the year that the food bank especially needs donations. Elliott will often take a percentage out of every purchase during the holidays to give to Keizer food bank.
“Uptown always makes sure to run events and other things during the holidays and times that we especially need it,” said Jim Johnson, director of the Keizer Community Food Bank. “It gives us a flow of money that we can almost count on.”
Cash donations allow the Keizer food bank to purchase hygiene products and other items that people may need but aren’t donated as often.
Grove gives away free comics for any food donations at the comic shop, which provides a consistent flow of food for the food bank, according to Johnson.
From the very first day Tony’s Kingdom of Comics opened their doors 15 years ago, there’s been a food barrel accepting donations by the front door. Grove said his grandma, who raised him, always emphasized the importance of helping your community.
“No matter how good things were, she always gave back. Toys throughout the year to the children's hospital or to underprivileged kids. Always donating time to food banks,” Grove said. “So when I opened the shop, I just thought, ‘This is a way I can give back.’”
Tony Grove stands behind the counter of his comic shop, which he's owned for 15 years. (KEIZERTIMES/Joey Cappelletti)
Grove has been in Keizer since 1983 and said this was another way to say thank you after all the community has done for him and his daughters over the years.
Grove’s most recent fundraiser pulled in 336 lbs of food and $128 in cash donations. Another $1,075 was raised in an auction for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland. Grove does auctions throughout the year for various causes and the auction items come at his own cost.
“I think if everybody helped out a little bit, the world would be a better place. Like I said, it’s important. This town has been good to me,” Grove said. “It sure filled up my karma bucket because when the pandemic hit this community came out in droves to support me and keep me going.”
While Johnson said that the two shop owners are the food bank’s largest donors, Grove and Elliott both downplay their altruism.
“We were able to donate, over the years I’d wager well over $30,000 in cash and I don’t know, tons and tons of food,” said Elliott. “But that’s not Uptown Music that donated that. It’s the community that allowed us to be the vehicle to help.”
News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.