The problems originated, sadly, with Rory's death. He'd told many of us that he was leaving the store to manager Todd Martinez if he died, but after his untimely death in 2008, his will was never found. So, Rory's family decided that they could do whatever the hell they wanted with the store, which is surely legally correct. They ended up demoting Todd, putting an outside manager over him, and no surprise within a year the store was dying. And the
Mind you, I didn't see any of this because I stopped going to the store sometime in 2009, in the year after Rory's death. That's because the store had already been going downhill, in the last years when Rory was sick and depressed and largely an absentee owner of the store. In fact my biggest problem was their stocking. More than once I went into the store to look for a specific trade paperback (and usually not a rare one) and they didn't have it. I got so frustrated that I gave up when I spent months trying to get volume #10 or so of 100 Bullets, asking them to order it again and again, and never getting it. I have a suspicion that may have already been in the period where the new management was trying to deal with those evil overstocking problems that Rory had.
Of course Rory's death itself was the other reason that I left the store, because I'd kept going there as much out of loyalty to him as out of love for the store. With the loyalty gone, I had no reason to stay, especially as the store deteriorated. I went there one last time this last December, hoping to pick up some British tradepaperbacks, part of that bad overstocking that Rory used to do. They didn't have them (no surprise), but I was struck more by the squalor that the store had fallen into. Rory had always kept it a clean well-lighted place for comics, to make them accessible and friendly to non-fans. Now, one of the front tables had towering piles of beaten-up bargain books, jammed here and there, piled messily about. I shook my head and though I hadn't planned at the time to never go back, something like that was certainly in my head.
The newest news suggest that the owner of Dark Carnival (along with others) has bought Comic Relief's stock and cats and that they'll be reopening the store under a different name, in the same place if they can get a lease. Jack Rems, the owner of Dark Carnival, has some of the same philosophies that Rory did. Notably, he believes in deep, deep backstock to make his store a goto-place for collectors of all sorts. However, he doesn't make his store as approachable as Rory did, so it still won't be quite the same thing.
My initial thought when I saw the signs announcing Comic Relief's death was how sad I was that Rory's legacy had been extinguished. I'm even more angry about that now that I know that it was greedy relatives who contributed to the death of that legacy by going against his well-known wishes. Too often the creativity of a person's life is killed by the squabbling greed of their living relatives. Yes, relatives of Stieg Larsson, I'm looking at you too.
But since then, I've remembered how big of a force Rory was in mentoring new writers and artists, Jeff Smith perhaps the most famous among them. And I also think his ideas of turning comic stores into book stores have lived on through other stores. In those ways his legacy continues.
Edit: Here's one of my earlier articles on why locally owned stores are great. Although it focuses more on the Endgame game store in Oakland, it also touches upon how Rory made Comic Relief great.