Westminster and Hampstead comic book fans might be glad to hear Marvel Comics will soon be distributed directly from the very towns in which they live.
Last year, book publishing company Penguin Random House expanded its operation to Hampstead with a multi-year lease of a more than 1 million-square-foot building, meant to largely serve as a distribution center for books.
The building, located at 630 Hanover Pike, added to Penguin Random House’s existing facilities, the closest of which is in Westminster. The move nearly doubled the amount of real estate the company has in Carroll County.
The Hampstead warehouse is the fourth national distribution center, providing additional capacity for storage space, infrastructure staff support and innovation development, according to a news release. The second Maryland location is just 10.4 miles from its sister main facility in Westminster with the other two located in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and in Reno, Nevada.
“The facility is operational now” and gradually growing, Stuart Applebaum, a spokesperson for the company, said. “Each week it becomes even more functional.”
Penguin Random House has since been able to increase its overall inventory capacity by one-third, he said, allowing for tens of thousands of additional titles and millions more units of its inventory across all formats without any further rental of outside storage space.
In March, Marvel Comics and Penguin Random House Publisher Services, a division of Penguin Random House, announced an exclusive worldwide multi-year sales and distribution agreement for Marvel’s newly published and backlist comic books, trade collections, and graphic novels to comics shops.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for us,” Applebaum said, while Marvel is one of the largest publishers of comic content, coming out with new titles every Wednesday.
Penguin Random House will be responsible for distributing to over 2,000 comic book shops nationwide.
“Hampstead is going to be the centerpiece of the Marvel Comics distribution,” Applebaum said, adding distribution will also take place in Westminster.
Hampstead resident John Wilson has been a self-proclaimed “giant Marvel nerd” for well over a decade now.
“This is another way to put Hampstead on the map,” he said. “To have that here is a big deal.”
Wilson said it’s “cool to know” the comic books will begin their journey in his little town, before being shipped off to be sold in shops all over the country.
Applebaum said the company is in the process of “hiring dozens more talent and staff at Hampstead and Westminster” as a result of the Marvel Comics opportunity, as well as overall business flow.
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Hampstead Mayor Chris Nevin said he’s glad to see the center will provide more jobs in the town as operations continue to expand.
“As they ramp up I look forward to having them as part of the business community and having their employees eating and shopping locally,” he said.
Robin Sutton, senior vice president of human resources for the company, said Penguin Random House is the largest private employer in the county with “well over 1,000 people working” at the 1.5 million-square-foot warehouse in Westminster.
Although the Marvel Comics distribution will not begin until October, she said a small but “strong team” has been put in place in Hampstead to start receiving comic book stock, on top of other duties.
“We have a good reputation as an employer,” Sutton noted. “We treat people very well … and do everything we can do keep them.”
Although the Hampstead facility has only been operational since the first quarter of this year, the Westminster, Crawfordsville, and Reno centers remained open amid the pandemic. Sutton said the publisher was able to maintain its essential distribution and fulfillment customer support without interruption, successfully, with total safety for everyone.
“I’m proud of our efficiency during the pandemic … we did not skip a day getting Penguin Random House book titles out to sellers,” Applebaum said, attributing the success to the “terrific dedication and skill set of Westminster staff.” He said he is looking forward to having “Westminster and Hampstead superheroes supporting the Marvel superheroes.”