Multiverse, owned by Gralin and Sara Hughes, opens its doors in Chestnut Hill, celebrating diverse comics and literature while fostering a welcoming community for fans of all backgrounds.
On the 8000 block of Germantown Avenue, Multiverse, a comic book store emphasizing BIPOC storytelling and art, has debuted.
Opened to the public on Friday, October 13, in the Chestnut Hill section of Northwest Philadelphia, couple and co-owners Gralin and Sara Zia Ebrahimi Hughes, alongside daughter Sami, welcomed comic book fans into Multiverse for the first time.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Gralin says. “I don’t think it’s set in yet that we’ve actually gotten to this point. It’s been such a fantasy for a long time; we haven’t had an opportunity to sit back and actually take it in,” says Gralin.
For six years, the couple dreamed of a space where bookworms and comic admirers could come together to divulge in outer worldly history and deep space lore. And in 2022, this dream became a reality when they found the 8026 storefront on Germantown Avenue available.
For Gralin, a Germantown local, multi-disciplinary artist, and adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Arcadia University, finding the location was more than a way to come home but a triumph for his childhood self.
“Growing up in Germantown. I’ve always loved Chestnut Hill,” Gralin says. “If I could go back in time and find the younger version of myself and say, ‘Hey, one day, this is where you’re going to have a store and get to talk to people about all the nerdy things that you love,” Gralin says.
Joining 28 other Black or BIPOC-owned businesses in Chestnut Hill, Multiverse is seen as a welcome addition to the strip of stores by the Chestnut Hill Business District. Which celebrates diverse shopping as part of their “Keep it On The Hill” initiative. A campaign centered on shopping locally in Chestnut Hill.
Lining the walls are a litany of Afro-Futuristic, horror, science fiction, and speculative fiction books and comics such as several issues of Black Panther, Chain-Gang: All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Ten Planet: Stories by Yuri Herrera, and The City Inside by Samit Basu — making it the ultimate fandom paradise. What makes Multiverse unique compared to other comic book stores in Philadelphia is its diversified selection of books and comics—a conscious choice by co-owners Gralin and Sara.
“There’s so many stories from around the world, science fiction, fantasy, and we really wanted to have a space where we can showcase all of those different stories,” Gralin says. Whereas cis-het men dominate most comic book and fandom spaces, Multiverse acknowledges the plethora of comic book fans and nerds who aren’t but hope their store offers a shift in perspective.
“I think for some people, even just seeing me and Gralin as owners of the store is a mental shift in their universe, and for others, it’s an affirmation. How do we all model what the world is that we want to live in?” Says co-owner Sara Hughes.
As an Iranian-American woman, Sara admits to growing up and hardly ever seeing girls whose identities intersected with hers in fandom settings. The comics she consumed fervently also didn’t include characters like her. That’s why, for both Sara and Gralin, Multiverse is an opportunity to introduce readers to an array of literature that contains diverse storytelling. This is something Sara takes pride in as both a former community organizer and Chief Operations Officer with the BlackStar Film Festival.
“I think core to our mission for the store is trying to connect writers, crafters, and artists and new audiences through the store. Often what we need is a platform or a hub for creatives to connect with audiences, so I think the kind of framework for me is informed by that,” says Hughes.
While Gralin and Sara are excited about how they can uplift local artisans and writers through Multiverse, they both share joy over the burgeoning community flocking to the bookstore, possibly reading comics or science fiction for the first time.
“My hope is that no matter where you are in your fandom journey, from entering into deep geekery, that you feel like it’s a place where you can continue on that journey and find whatever the next thing is that’s gonna make you happier, bring you joy, or intrigue,” Sara shares.
Already asked what other comics they can line their walls with, readers of all ages can anticipate the coming of great art and interesting reads worth the trip to Chestnut Hill.
“We just want to bring together a community of people and introduce them to stuff that maybe they haven’t seen or loved already, to read, and continue to enjoy,” Gralin says.