Big Rapids Distribution
|Former type||Comic book distributor|
|Headquarters||Detroit, Michigan, United States|
|Key people||Jim Kennedy|
Big Rapids Distribution was a Detroit-based distributor focusing on underground newspapers, radical literature, and underground comics. They were responsible for the unusually good coverage that underground comix and underground papers got in the Michigan area in the early 1970s, when they could be found in most full-service newsstands there. At its height, shortly before it went bankrupt in 1980, Big Rapids was functioning as an alternative independent distributor in the central and southern Michigan areas, selling a full line of magazines and paperbacks, as well as comics.
Big Rapids was founded as a cooperative circa 1970 as the Keep On Truckin' Coop. They eventually changed their name but retained their co-op structure. Jim Kennedy, Big Rapids' "first-among-equals," described the company as an "alternative Independent Distributor."
Rise to prominence
Big Rapids' entry into mainstream comics distribution came in early 1975, when Donahoe Brothers Inc. of nearby Ann Arbor went under and Big Rapids purchased its assets. (Up to that point, Big Rapids had bought its mainstream comics from Donohoe Brothers.)
Big Rapids was aggressive, often taking over the businesses of customers who ran up large debts (ironic, given that their delivery vehicles carried pictures of Karl Marx on the inside doors). At its height, Big Rapids was actually functioning as an alternative independent distributor in the Detroit and central and southern Michigan areas, selling a full line of magazines and paperbacks, as well as comics.
- Distributors acquired by Big Rapids
- The Comic Distributor — run by Jim Friel. Big Rapids called in Friel's debt in 1979 and he became an employee for a year. (The name "The Comic Distributor" was later taken by Mark Hylton of Comic Carnival.)
- Isis News (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
- Nova (Los Angeles, California)
- Well News Co. (Columbus, Ohio) — their personnel became the nucleus of an early Capital City Distribution branch
- Wisconsin Independent News Distributors (WIND) — run by Milton Griepp and John Davis, who later founded Capital City Distribution
Bankruptcy and dissolution
In 1980, despite being the largest of many distributors in the direct market, Big Rapids went bankrupt and their assets were liquidated.
There was a scramble to fill the void; a couple of new companies that grew briefly from the wreckage lasted only briefly — Bob Hellems' company in Detroit and Bob Beerbohm's in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of the pieces were picked up by the brand-new Capital City Distribution or by New Media Distribution.