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Goodbye, Gandhi? Mural's Fate in Flux

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The owners of the store, Cheryl Pryor and her husband, Barry, have been dabbling in the comics business since 1984, when they were high school students selling and trading comics at flea markets. In 1994, they bought Stories in the South Side, expanding it into what is now a 5,250-square-foot, wall-to-wall stockpile of comics, paperbacks, magazines, action figures, movies and T-shirts across from Westover Hills Model Elementary School. They eventually added a location in the West End and one in Colonial Heights.

Because the windows across the 71-foot-long South Side storefront mostly back up against unsightly shelves, Pryor says, her husband had the idea to hire a customer — artist Al Simons — to paint the windows with literary and comic characters in 1994.

Today, six window panels feature a unique mix, including the Bride of Frankenstein, Calvin and Hobbes, Space Ghost, Albert Einstein and Tinkerbell.

But in June, Cheryl Pryor says, she learned that someone had complained about the mural and the store would have to remove — or paint over — five of the six panels to meet the sign regulations of the city zoning ordinance.

"That's ridiculous," says longtime customer Charles Howard, upon learning of the seemingly doomed mural. "But that's the way bureaucracy works."

Or does it?

A call to William Davidson, the city's zoning administrator, reveals a potential misunderstanding.

The problem isn't with Space Ghost, necessarily, Davidson says. It's with all the words on the mural that announce what's inside the store: Richard Nixon, for example, is shown saying "Politics" and "History." Other characters are pictured talking, too.

"I think it pretty much is telling the shopping public what they have for sale," Davidson says. "And I think that's the distinction here" [between a sign and artwork].

Originally, Pryor says, she offered to white out the words and keep the art. But she was told that wouldn't work, she says.

Davidson, reached Friday, seems to think otherwise. "I think that would probably handle most of the issue," he says. "That would probably be a step in the right direction. I have no qualms in trying to mediate and in trying to get to the point where we're OK."

"You're kidding!" Pryor says, when Style relays the message. "Well, I'll do it!"

Then, she pauses. "Could I get some sort of official confirmation of that?" — Jason Roop



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