Cape and Cowl is an LGBT-inclusive comic bookstore in Lower Sackville, NS. A self-proclaimed nerd, owner Jay Roy worked in comic book and video game stores as a young person. He worked at a Pokemon Card Shop on Saturdays amongst working in fast food places. Cape and Cowl manifest Jay’s values of community involvement, youth support, and nerd culture.
“It was always really important to me to be involved in the community and have a positive impact. Eventually, it turned into me taking my own path, wanting to be the show’s director, and having my own space to showcase my ideas. I’ve been doing this for over six years, and I love it”.
Jay was inspired by his mother, Dianne, who ran her own art classes for kids in the community. The art classes were a safe haven for Jay at a particularly difficult time in school. “She created that business because I was being quite bullied at school. She created that space so she could be the steward of the space. Sometimes my bullies attended her art classes because their parents wanted them to be in my mom’s classes, which was one of the coolest things around at the time. Nobody could bully me there”. Jay’s mother set an excellent example for her son regarding being assertive as a businessperson. “My mom lead in a gentle but stern way. She demands respect without being scary. Every kid loved her, so I learned from her example. I meet people where they’re at, but I don’t let people push me around”.
Growing up in a small town, Jay recognized the importance of representation when he came out as transgender. He got involved with the Youth Project in Halifax, where he developed his leadership skills. This experience helped him realize his potential to create a place where young people can get support. Cape and Cowl has a drop-in center at the heart of the store, a wheel-chair accessible washroom, and meeting rooms occupied by Karrie Rayne (Nova Scotia Health Authority) and therapist Garry Porter. For Pride in 2017, a sign declaring Cape and Cowl as a trans-owned business was put on display to the public. Jay recognized the importance of this representation and the positive response it has created.
“I grew up in a small town, so everyone knows each other. When I came out, it was rather public. Being able to start my own business was like a fresh start. I was on testosterone for five months when I opened Cape and Cowl. People are respectful of the rules”. Although Jay rarely receives hateful comments from customers, he knows how and when to assert himself. “I’ve had very few instances where customers would say disrespectful things, but in those moments, I “harness Dianne” by killing them with kindness. I give them one strike, and they immediately change their behaviour”.
Jay prioritizes accessibility and inclusivity at Cape and Cowl Comics and Collectables. People young and old are welcome to exercise their love for comics and reach out for help if need be. Jay is proud to have a business where he can connect deeply with his customers and support young people in the LGBT community. “People in Sackville were happy to have someone to talk to about LGBT issues. Parents also come in and ask how they can best support their kids”.
As Cape and Cowl’s face, Jay is fiercely protective of maintaining the safe haven he has created for young people like himself. “My role is to protect the youth that comes into my store. If someone wants to throw a brick through the window, fine. I am going to be the one to take the hit for the young people. Not every trans person takes on that responsibility, but I feel as if it is my calling to do so”.
Operating a unique business in a small town has made Jay assume a leadership role in more ways than one. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has done everything in his power to provide support to his clientele. “In the beginning, I closed the store to foot traffic and moved everything online, including Karrie’s services through the health authority. Many youth and parents reached out, and I have been able to connect them to the resources they needed”.
Since people look to Jay’s example, he has been taking extra safety precautions after reopening his store. “Now we are open again from 11 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday. 1-2 people are allowed to come in and play video games at a time. I’ve been stricter than the government when it comes to safety protocols. I only have 25% capacity in the store at a time, even though I’m allowed to have up to 50%”.
To support the store even further, Cape and Cowl are launching their brand-new E-Commerce soon. Jay expresses his excitement, “I don’t make a profit yet. Most of the proceeds will go towards keeping the shop open, paying the bills, and having the safe space available”. More information on the launch will be available on their social media.
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