Gov. Phil Murphy picked up “Maus,” a graphic novel style about the Holocaust, and the Golden Book “The Legend of Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi” at Montclair’s comic store, East Side Mags, on Thursday.

Owner Jeff Beck said Murphy told him that his family members are Star Wars fans as he showed the governor, who was there to celebrate National Small Business Week, around the store.

“Maus,” which was just banned in classrooms across Tennessee, was chosen, Beck said, after Murphy made a statement against book banning. 

East Side Mags is one of 200 New Jersey businesses that have received funding through the Main Street Recovery Program. 

In February, the state set aside $100 million for the program to support small businesses following the pandemic.

East Side Mags received funding through the program under the Small Business Lease Grant to cover 20% of its rent in 2022 and 2023, Beck said.

Other funding through the program, the Small Business Improvement Grant, reimburses grantees for 50 percent of the cost of capital improvements to their businesses. Beck said he also applied for that funding and is still waiting to hear back from the state. 

“Small businesses like East Side Mags are essential to New Jersey’s vibrant and thriving Main Streets,” Murphy stated in a May 5 press release. “As we transition from pandemic to endemic, we must continue to support small businesses as they recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19. I am proud to support New Jersey’s small businesses and look forward to seeing their continued resiliency and contributions to our economy and communities.”

Beck, who opened the store on South Fullerton Avenue in 2014, said shutting down and laying off employees in April 2020 when the state mandated a lockdown due to the pandemic was “very hard.”

He was able to quickly pivot to filling orders with curbside pickups and discounted shipping. The shop made it through the pandemic and moved to a larger space on Bloomfield Avenue in the summer of 2021. 

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority will also now be taking applications for Micro Business Loans, aimed to aid for-profit, nonprofit and home-based businesses, beginning in June. The program is open to businesses with 10 or fewer full-time employees and no more than $1.5 million in annual revenues. Applications are still open for the Small Business Lease Grant and the Small Business Improvement Grant.

Beck credits some of his success making it through COVID-19 on the “many state grants” he received during the pandemic and recent funding, but says a lot was due to his dedicated staff and customers, who really kept East Side Mags going.