After Closing Oak Cliff Comic Book Shop to Marry, Dallas Husbands Went Viral
Kenneth Denson and Gabriel Mendez, one of Dallas' first same-sex marriages.
Last Friday started out on a quiet and unassuming note for Kenneth Denson and Gabriel Mendez, the owners of Oak Cliff’s Red Pegasus Games and Comics. The night before, Denson composed the following note, placed it on the front door of the store and posted a picture of it on their Facebook page:
The following morning, the picture of the sign went viral after an acquaintance of theirs grabbed the picture from Facebook and wrote about it on Twitter. People of all walks of life liked the tone of the message and shared it on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. “I think that sign had a lot of vulnerability to it that people could relate to,” Mendez says.
As the day progressed and the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage was handed down, Denson and Mendez, both wearing gray Red Pegasus T-shirts, shared pictures of them standing in line and later, holding their marriage license. They actually were the first in line at the courthouse, but they forgot to sign in. When Denson and Mendez, along with other couples in line behind them, saw Jack Evans and George Harris, a couple that been together for 54 years, they happily let them be the first couple to get their license and marry. (Denson and Mendez married in a private ceremony afterwards.)
The joyous day had a major impact on Red Pegasus as a business. Not only were its owners treated to well-wishers, flowers, balloons, desserts and Champagne once they opened the store that day, the influx of new and regular customers was massive. The story made the front page of Reddit while calls and messages came in from all kinds of media outlets, including NBC, MTV and a Canadian radio. When the couple appeared on local radio station The Ticket on Saturday, a friend watched after the store. By the end of the weekend, another friend and regular customer dropped off a copy of The New York Times featuring Denson and Mendez, along with other married couples, on the front page.
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Red Pegasus has only been in its Eighth Street location for a couple of months, but its sales on Saturday were on the level of their Free Comic Book Day celebration back in May. The experience has already led to a major boost in Red Pegasus’ presence in the community. Many people who live in Oak Cliff never knew of its existence, but told the owners they will be back.
Just last year, Denson and Mendez were about to open a sandwich shop, but decided to go another route at the last minute. Their mindset was, as Denson puts it, “What do we love doing that Oak Cliff doesn’t have? We don’t want to do what we’re doing, so let’s figure it out and we arrived at comics and games.” With that in mind, Denson left his job in the IT/hosting world and Mendez left his job at the Perot Museum. Their first approach was opening a weekend pop-up at the Texas Theatre last summer when Guardians of the Galaxy opened. Then, they moved into a temporary location, a warehouse, for a couple of months, and the buzz kept building. Seeing how strongly the store caught on, they decided to make Red Pegasus their priority. (Denson also builds websites as a freelancer and plans to take a real estate license test soon.) That’s when they moved to a renovated home on Eighth Street, just around the corner from Zoli’s and The Local Oak.
It’s completely logical how the couple came to opening their own store. Mendez was into comics from a very early age and Denson came from a town that didn’t even have a comic book shop. Not long after opening Red Pegasus, they realized their key products were comics, Magic: The Gathering cards, candy and drinks.
Mendez and Denson have been together since 2001. Prior to that, they had frequently run into each other at the coffee shop where Mendez worked, as well as a Girls Against Boys show at the Gypsy Tea Room and in an online chat room. “I was 20 years old and very obnoxious the way most 20-year-olds can be,” Mendez says. “What sold me on Kenneth was that he could talk to me about Siouxsie and the Banshees. We had our first date two days later.”
Their trading of vows on Friday was actually their third time overall. They had been married ten years ago on the roof of Club Clearview, but their union wasn’t recognized in Texas. They later married in San Francisco once same-sex marriage was legal in California. Going into last Friday, they were split on what the Supreme Court would say and when. “I had complete faith it would be Friday,” Denson says. “I didn’t,” Mendez says. “I’m still in shock that it’s a thing, that it’s a reality. I never thought it would be a reality in my time.”
As the glow of being Internet famous fades, Denson and Mendez look forward to making Red Pegasus a better comic book store, by being good owners who fill out regular, weekly comic orders, along with candy and soda orders. Their store is a friendly and welcoming place to all people, and the tone is set by Denson and Mendez. They know comic books, games and toys, but they aren’t trying to impress you with their knowledge. “The line between customers and owners is very, very thin here,” Mendez says. “We like to treat all of our customers like they’re our friends.”
Red Pegasus Games and Comics is located at 208 W. Eighth St.
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