ROCK ISLAND — It was a simple mission he faced on that frozen January day nearly four decades ago.
Tim Cederoth was tasked with buying some comic books for his brother, Larry, a longtime educator who had been hospitalized.
"And so I did,'' said Cederoth, who recently closed a chapter, retiring from the legendary Tim's Corner, arguably the most recognized comic-book and collectibles store on the local landscape. "It struck me that day I went to get something for Larry to read — the vibe and the atmosphere where I went. It was me.''
At the time, Cederoth, who had given 17 years to International Harvester Company, had become a farm-crisis casualty.
Out of a job, he decided to blaze his own career trail, opening a paperback book exchange in an old Co-op Records building at 30th Street and 14th Avenue in Rock Island.
The store also had collectibles, a couple of pinball machines, a Tron game, some comics and some trading cards. Tim's Corner was also known for what many would argue was the best Coney dog this side of the Mississippi River.
"The food side of things really helped in the early going,'' said Cederoth, who at age 75 and even with balky knees is in better shape than many people a third his age. "It was a great start. Sure, there were trying times, but I had support from my family, and the community understood what my intentions were.''
Business-wise, it helped that Cederoth was active in the community. His men's senior softball team captured six national championships and placed second once in the World Games for senior athletes.
"Attitude is a key word for life," Cederoth said of his being a standout out in sports later in life and the way he has always dealt with people. "You want to be around good people, and you want to be good to them. My brother, Larry, a great teacher, who was at DeWitt Central High School for 38 years, taught me a lot about attitude. You want to build people up, not take them down.''
It was that way for 35-plus years at Tim's Corner. All visitors were welcomed, and they were strangers only once.
"It was always a great place to hang out,'' Cederoth said of his original spot at 2963 14th Ave. and then Store No. 2 at 1303 30th St., Rock Island. "It still is.''
Generations across the comic and collectible landscape have shared time at Tim's Corner. Fathers have passed the comics torch to sons who have since passed the love to future generations.
"I loved it when fathers — guys I know — brought in their kids and shared that passion for comics or collectibles,'' Cederoth said. "We have always been about family. I would never have made it without the support of my wife and kids. Hey, they had no idea one day I'd be bringing home 17 hot dogs and Coney sauce because we didn't have the greatest day with food.
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"But dads and sons, and then their sons with their kids. That's why Tim's made it through all these years.''
Tim's even survived a change in location. In March 2017, an explosion at the Vintage Rose Antique Shop forced Cederoth to move down the street to the old Sunshine Performing Arts Center.
"You just move on," Cederoth said. "No one was hurt, and that there was a building available was perfect. It all worked out.''
When he began his nearly four-decade business journey, comics were part of the Tim's Corner landscape, but they weren't as dominant as they have been for the past 20-plus years. Marvel and D.C comic heroes and have turned the business on its ear.
Superheroes Iron Man, Spider-Man and the Green Lantern, just to name a few, have sparked huge industry growth. The "Star Wars" series also has played a huge role on the collectibles side.
"The films have all played a huge role in comics being at the forefront,'' Cederoth said, chuckling when asked about the comic-book shop scenes of the popular television show "Big Bang Theory.'' "The growth over several years has been amazing."
And what about people using the comic-book store as a great place to hang out?
"The best part of my years in business was people standing, looking at comics,'' he said. "I love people, and I loved having people in here. It has and always been a gathering place. It's the people who have made this work.''
He no longer has day-to-day work responsibilities, but Cederoth's schedule is full. He is fresh from an out-of-state trip to watch a talented granddaughter play soccer, and he has a gifted grandson who is a natural on the stage.
"Oh, there is plenty to keep me busy,'' Cederoth said.
Knowing Tim's Corner now is in the hands of a like-minded leader, Jared Siddall, has made it easy for Cederoth to make the transition away from the day-to-day grind of running a small business.
"What a great guy,'' Cederoth said of Siddall. "He will do great things with the business. He had been after me for about four years, and I respect him a great deal. He paid for the name, and I know everything is in great hands. I cannot be more happy.''