For Gralin and Sara Zia Ebrahimi Hughes, the Multiverse is more than a backdrop for the escapades of Marvel and DC superheroes. It’s a welcoming space for fans and creators.
For Gralin and Sara Zia Ebrahimi Hughes, the Multiverse is more than just a backdrop for the escapades of Marvel and DC superheroes. It’s a welcoming space for fans and creators of comic books, sci-fi, horror and all things fantastic.
Multiverse, the Chestnut Hill version, is a new bookstore the Wyndmoor couple is scheduled to open in the 8000 block of Germantown Avenue, just in time for Chestnut Hill’s Fall for the Arts Festival on Oct. 8. The official opening will be on Oct. 13, with a ribbon cutting ceremony from 5 to 7 p.m.
“We’re going to still have X-Men, Superman, Batman, Star Wars, and all those traditional things because it’s still out there in the world, but we also want to make space for the amazing stories that people haven’t really read or heard about,” Gralin Hughes, Jr. said.
Multiverse’s shelves will be packed with comics, manga, novels, toys, clothing, and tabletop games, from genres such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, and more. Store hours are Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Hugheses have been brainstorming the idea of a shop for about six years, and then in 2022, they secured a storefront location. Gralin Hughes, Jr. grew up in Germantown and was familiar with the Chestnut Hill area.
“The pandemic was a moment of reassessing what we were doing with our time; it was all about taking our experiences and figuring out how we can create something of our own,” Ebrahimi Hughes said. “We looked at storefronts occasionally, and I remember the day Gralin called me and said, “I think this is the one.”
During the property’s construction, the couple showed off their merchandise at vending tables at festivals across the city, including the Chestnut Hill Home and Garden Festival.
“[The feedback] has been reaffirming, there’s been a lot of excitement, and people have been reaching out through email and social media,” Gralin Hughes said. Since their announcement that the store would be opening on Germantown Avenue, “we haven’t gone a week without someone asking us ‘When are you opening,’” Ebrahimi Hughes said.
Ebrahimi Hughes has a long history as a resource mobilizer, connecting artists and community organizers to the resources they need to be successful. She works with BlackStar, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that uplifts the work of Black, Brown and Indigenous artists, and serves as the organization’s COO where she grew the organization from a $600,000 to $6 million dollar operation.
Gralin Hughes Jr. is a multidisciplinary artist with a background in photography, industrial design, installation art, filmmaking, and other forms of audio and visual art, and is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Arcadia University.
“We are a team in a lot of ways; with Sara's background and her business side of figuring out the logistics to start a business, she’s been amazing,” Gralin Hughes said. “I have a background in design, so we just took the things we were each great at and came together.”
Both grew up with a love for comic books and fantasy novels.
“We want to make space for folks that are often marginalized and that are not given as much shine in the industry, whether it’s for books or comics,” Ebrahimi Hughes said. “What it does to someone psychologically to not see a representation of themself has a lasting effect, and that’s part of the inspiration for us to provide a store where someone can walk in and see a reflection of themself.”
The Hugheses also plan to host community gatherings that include tabletop game nights and workshops. They aim to have artists and authors do pop-ups in their store and hold book signings. They’re also planning to host cosplay events, which is when a person dresses up as their favorite character from a comic, movie, show, or video game.
“We want to bring that convention vibe into a store; we want someone to walk out of here with the same feeling you would have at a Comic-Con,” Ebrahimi Hughes said.
“Right now it’s just us working here and our daughter helps out, but we’ve already had people reach out to try and work with us,” Gralin Hughes said. “We’ll get to that eventually; our hope is that we do well enough to grow.”