It's Still Called Omni Comics, But Business Has Evolved

Because Omni Comics and Cards is such a high volume eBay seller, it could have to start collecting sales tax if the Marketplace Fairness bill becomes law. The bill, which would require online sellers with $1 million or more in online sales to collect sales tax even in states where they don't have a physical presence, passed the U.S. Senate last year, 69-27, with the support of both of Connecticut's senators, but has not been brought up for a vote in the House.

EBay recently paid for Wool and 40 other small retailers to travel to Washington to lobby against the bill.

"It was an education for me as a small-business owner. First of all, I could not believe how young all the staffers were! These guys work hard, long hours for minimal pay."

Wool said he didn't know much about the proposal until eBay recruited him to lobby, but said, "the more I learned about it, the more of a nightmare it is."

He said there's supposedly software that would automatically determine which sales tax rate and exemptions apply for each customer, but he said, "Nobody's seen it work." A further complication is that some businesses sell through multiple platforms — for instance, a proprietary website such as eBay and Amazon.

Wool said he understands the pressures adding up for collecting sales tax online — Wal-Mart, Amazon, Macy's and other national retailers are doing it and don't want to be at a disadvantage against eBay sellers, for one. Also, he said, "states are losing more and more [tax] money every day."

But Wool said there needs to be a major simplification of sales taxes for it to work. He said he likes the idea of a 5 percent sales tax everywhere.

"I think everybody knows there's going to be a revenue solution," he said.

Even as Wool spends more energy on selling online, he's introducing new ideas for brick and mortar customers. Three months ago, he started "Case Break" nights, where 15 or 16 people come, pay $50, and get all the trading cards for the members of two NFL teams, as well as lasagna or pizza.

"The problem with sports cards, they're very expensive. You can't get a decent box for less than $100," he said. This way, people can get a nice selection and a fun night out, maybe with their kids, too.

Wool won't say that he likes selling in person more than selling online, but you can see how much he thrives on the contact when Safet Velic of Wethersfield comes in with his two daughters and buys $18.07 worth of World Cup stickers. Velic, a Bosnian immigrant, barely speaks English, but Wool tries to chat him up about soccer, who he's rooting for, and the progress of the sports facilities in Brazil.

"I used to know everybody's name that walked in," Wool says. About 90 percent of his in-person sales is repeat business, he said, as well as 20 percent of online sales.

His partner, who's 67, is about to retire, but Wool has a hard time seeing himself going as long in the business.

"I'm working 16 hour days," he said, except he doesn't work Sundays. "As I get older, I find adapting to change is harder. Change is coming quicker and quicker."

Omni Comics and Cards is open seven days a week at 681 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, and 854 Farmington Ave. Bristol. 860 571-0138