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FARMINGTON — April Loughridge is a substitute teacher in Farmington by day and surrounds herself with superheroes by night.

Last month, the 33-year-old opened her first comic book store, Ichigo Comics, in Farmington's Hutton Plaza, down the street from the post office.

Born and raised in Farmington, Loughridge returned recently to the city after a decade in California, where her husband was stationed with the U.S. Navy.

Loughridge — who keeps five Wonder Woman costumes she hand-sewed in her home closet — opened her store to further her love for both used and new comic books and anime and manga books and cards.

Ichigo means "strawberry" in Japanese, and, Loughridge said, the store's name signals to customers that her shop features more than book and film franchise strongholds like Marvel Comics' Spider-Man and DC Comics' Super-Man. Loughridge is also a fan of anime and manga —  animation styles that originated in Japan —  and sells the popular Japanese books and cards.

Loughridge said she became enamored by comic books at an early age thanks to her father who read her copies of X-Men and Wonder Woman at bedtime. Later in life, she sold handmade items and has competed in costume contests at comic book and anime conventions, which provided a natural segue into running her own store.

Her store also showcases her creativity. She sells sketches and many of her own handmade items, like dangling earrings that feature the Star Wars rebel alliance insignia and replicas of Wonder Woman's bullet-deflecting silver bracelets in hand-stitched pleather.

"I just came back from working with first graders — this is relaxing," she told customer Deion Hayes, who drove from his home in Shiprock on Monday looking for anime items and the new Secret Wars series of comics published by Marvel Comics.

Hayes, 22, who especially likes Yu-Gi-Oh! manga books and cards, said he was glad to look around the store.

Comic book stores in the Four Corners are hard to find these days, he said. Besides Loughridge's store, Hastings on East 20th Street is the only other source for comic books after the closure of Atomik Comix on Main Street, which went defunct several years ago, he said.

Loughridge rents space next door from the Good Games store, which hosts card-based games tournaments, primarily Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! games. Good Games, which opened two years ago, is connected by a doorway to Loughridge's store.

Carlos Martinez, manager at Good Games, said Loughridge's shop opening next door is good for business since both stores appeal to similar customers and offer complimentary or cross-over products.

"A lot of our gamers like her stuff, and a lot of her customers like our stuff, so it makes sense we keep the door (that divides the two businesses) open," Martinez said.

So far, Bloomfield resident Kevin Broten is Loughridge's sole "regular" customer, she said.

Broten shops at Ichigo each day Loughridge opens her doors. On Monday, he came by like clockwork, he said, and bought two Ghostbusters comic books.

"Just when she's not open is pretty much when I don't show up," Broten said. "I'm pretty much here four days a week."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

More information

What: Ichigo Comics

Where: 2501 E. 20th St., Suite 23, in Hutton Plaza, Farmington

Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 3:45 to 8 p.m. Friday and 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday

More info: Call 559-816-1081 or go to facebook.com/BelldandyIchigo.

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