Ryan Smith
United States
Shelton
Washington
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I live in a small town (Shelton, WA) of about 6000 people. We have a single Friendly Local Game Store, but as the title says it isn't very friendly and it isn't actually a game store. It's a "hobby shop" that sells a lot of model train and railroad stuff, and in the back they have some euro's on a shelf.

The store is about a 1 minute walk from my work, so I walk over there maybe once a week to see if they have any new games that I might be interested, but every time I enter the store I am usually the only customer in the store and my presence seems like it is a huge inconvenience to the guy who owns/operates the store.

I use to live in another small town roughly the same size that had a local bookstore that sold games and after getting to know the owner he started setting up tables and letting people hang out in his bookstore playing games and it created a wonderful atmosphere that I wanted to visit (pretty much the polar opposite of my current situation).

I know I am in a small town, but it just seems like "smart" business sense to try and create an environment that is hospitable to potential customers.

I have barely purchased anything there because the prices can't compete with online prices and the environment stinks.

All of this is leading up to my question: I was thinking of going over to the store in the next few days and trying to sit down with the guy and see if he would be interested in setting up a "gaming" area where people could come and play games on a lunch break/after school/after work type setting.

Has anyone ever done this? How do I sell the idea to him, and is it even worthwhile? I really want to see a great local store where I can meet other gamers, support local business and grow my local gaming community... but it seems like I might be the only one who wants this

I have a great local gaming group (8-12 guys on average) that meets once a month, I am trying to think of ways I can leverage our group as a potential customer base for our local store... but I am not sure how to approach him.

Any tips?
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Just ask, but be prepared for him to ask for a fee. It will increase the cost of heating, the use of his toilet, etc.

That, or you guys should buy games from him frequently enough.

Or, how about another business? Like a coffee shop, a bookstore, or maybe the local chamber of commerce can help you - you might be surprised how helpful those are.
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Royce Hix
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I would also be interested to see what people have to say. The FLGS here is definitely a LGS, they're right near the downtown sector and have a significant amount of board games, but they also lack the F part. Each time I go in there, I feel like I'm just spending cash, nobody says hi, nobody asks if you're looking for a specific game, or makes recommendations. They just want your money and want you to get out so they can go back to slacking off.

I've taken my business online because of this, but as I work on growing my game group (currently only have 5, though I do have a few more I wouldn't mind inviting), I have considered that I will run out of room in my house at some point. We have two tables and could accommodate 10-12 active gamers playing two different games, but I wonder if a central meeting place would be better, and whether or not it'd be a good idea. They regularly have Magic & Yugi-oh CCG nights, but none of the staff are into board games (as per their website), just CCGs.

This too, in a city with a metropolitan area just over 100,000. The town I grew up in of about 8,000 didn't have a game store at all. Wal-Mart was the closest thing there was, so at least you have some place to start!
 
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Trent Hamm
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The game itself isn't important. Spending time intellectually jousting with likeminded folks is the real reason to game.
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I'm all about supporting a FLGS. That's not an FLGS. If you feel like you're inconveniencing the owner by going there, then don't.

Start a gaming group in your home. Ask if you can put up a flyer in the shop back in the Euro game area. Then order your games from an online retailer.

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Ryan Smith
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It's a chicken and egg thing, most of us have been to the shop at one time or another and found the owner to be less than helpful and his prices are pretty horrible. So any time we make a game order we pool together and order enough stuff online to get free shipping from one of the bigger online game retailers.

So it's tough to convince all my gaming buddies to spend an extra $10-$15 on a game when there is zero benefit to doing so since the FLGS is so craptastic.

But at the same time I can understand the local retailers mindset of "why bothering to cater to these guys, they never buy anything ever anyway"...

And the vicious cycle continues...
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Will
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I would be careful about it, probably don't want an unfriendly store owner to turn people off of game playing. I'd suggest doing it once or twice on a trial basis to see how it goes.
 
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Tim Gilberg
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rsmithx wrote:

So it's tough to convince all my gaming buddies to spend an extra $10-$15 on a game when there is zero benefit to doing so since the FLGS is so craptastic.


The point of supporting a FLGS--which usually entails paying something around MSRP for games at said FLGS--is that it is a source of support for the hobby, locally and beyond.

A hobby store that has a small shelf of euros in the back and does absolutely nothing to push board gaming is not a source of support for the hobby, locally and beyond.

You can certainly try to talk to the store owner and try to get some sort of play space as well as some sort of scheduled events that push board gaming. But if he's not up for that I really have to say that you do not have a FLGS.
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Guy Riessen
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rsmithx wrote:

But at the same time I can understand the local retailers mindset of "why bothering to cater to these guys, they never buy anything ever anyway"...

And the vicious cycle continues...


Well, sort of.... But the game store is the one who is in business, not the customer, and the days of having a captive market because the next store is 50 miles away are long gone. It's up to businesses and owners to go "out of their way" to make the experience of shopping in their store a step above the impersonal internet.

Games and game groups grow and spread by word of mouth--people playing games at lunch at work, people bringing small quick games to parties and local game groups. Groups will sprout and grow regardless of whether they are in a game store or in people's homes. It's a ridiculous myth to think that the death of the unfriendly local game stores will somehow mean the end of gaming or the end of new gamers.

With that in mind, just ask the guy about it. You don't have to "sell" him on it. If he doesn't go for it, just continue to grow your own group (or not, 4 players, as long as they come regularly, have similar taste in games, and are fun to play with, is pretty much ideal).
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Swood
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My experience is that many small business owners of this type (non-franchised) quickly become too familiar with their business and ultimately lose the ability and/or desire to maintain a professional appearance. The business becomes an extension of their home and personal life. This makes it simultaneously uncomfortable for the owner and the patron to be in the store, as you are "invading" their personal space.

I've seen small businesses where the owner keeps a TV going all the time in the store with family members loitering about. It's downright creepy and awkward for the customer.

I don't foresee you having any luck with this guy unless you can snap him out of it and get him to shape up his entire business... which will never happen.
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Chelsey King
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I haven't got any tips for you, But I wish you luck. One of our FLGS has staff that act much the same way, like its the biggest imposition that you decided to come in and shop that day. Its a huge turn off to feel like your business isn't valued at all. One time in particular I remember he was irritated with me because I asked him to help me move a folded up table in front of the paint display, I think he would have rather continued talking to his buddies about whatever MMO they where chatting about at the time. I bought $100 in paints and tools that day, and for weeks afterward regretted giving my money to a business with such rude staff. I mean, I get it, you work in a game store, and you probably don't make much money, but you do it because you love it. Thats understandable, but it is still WORK, so you are going to have to, on occasion, be helpful.

The other FLGS is actually awesome, with friendly, knowledgeable staff. I've only been irritated with them once but it is a pretty funny story. It was the first time we went there, and it was all the way across town, like 40 minutes with traffic from our house. I went with my husband, our friend and our friends kid, who at the time was about a year and a half. We get there around 11, and they aren't open. No sign that says their hours, no one is answering the phone. We use my buddies barely functional smart phone to visit their website, forum, citysearch...everything, still no hours. By now its HOT outside and inside the car, the kid is screaming, everyone is grumpy. So I called and left a very VERY irritated message about it being SOP for business to post their hours...blah blah blah. I was pretty pissed, and usually I can control it, but with an infant screaming in your ear, well sometimes you just lose control. So we decide to go get lunch and swing back by before we left. This time they where open, so we shop, I ordered some Reaper Minis, we chat with the owner, everything is friendly and happy. Right as we are checking out, the other clerk goes "Oh look, messages on the machine" and presses play. As you can imagine, I was like...lets hurry up and get the hell out of here. No such luck, the first couple messages are hang ups, and then as I am still checking out, the message with my angry tirade came on. I was totally humiliated, the guys laughed about it, luckly the baby was still acting up so we blamed my anger on her. Long story somewhat shorter, the owner laughed it off, we still shop there, and they still don't have their hours on the door!

My husband and I have gone back and forth about saving up to open a FLGS/Comic Book shop, and I couldn't imagine having a game store without a place for people to play games, so I hope that you work something out with this store. I know when I come into a FLGS I usually make at least $20-30 worth of unplanned impulse purchases, and I think most others are like that too. So if hes a wise businessman he will understand the value of regular foot traffic from adults with money to spend.
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Richard Jackson

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As everyone else has already said, you don't have a FLGS! I know how you feel, as we certainly never had anything like one either. Even now, our nearby game stores operate solely for selling 40K minis and that is about it. I'd just be friendly with the shop owner and let him know that you have a group of people playing on a regular basis and whether or not he would be interested in allowing something like that in the corner of the store. It sounds like he already has very little interest in catering to boardgamers, and you probably won't change his mind. So if he says no, then take solace in the fact that you do NOT have a FLGS and enjoy the sweet victory when you buy your games online for huge discounts over what he charges!

I've known a few shops that supported players to varying degrees. Many of them "allowed" gaming, but that consisted entirely of CCGs and everyone else felt out of place/had no room to play. I have found a store now that is 2 and 1/2 hours away. They have rows of tables set up for play, snacks, comic books, and all other things Geek. If I happen to be near the store I will always stop in and buy something, just because it is such an awesome place.

If this guy doesn't want to have anything to do with board gamers then that is his choice and just press on.
 
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Eh. If you're looking for a place to play, I'd also look into coffee shops and library community rooms. I have local gaming clubs that use both as venues. No, they may not be part of "the hobby", but local businesses need support, too, and you can always build up your public club and create your own gaming community support.
 
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Tim Gilberg
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SnowBass23 wrote:

I've known a few shops that supported players to varying degrees. Many of them "allowed" gaming, but that consisted entirely of CCGs and everyone else felt out of place/had no room to play.


You do realize that those CCGers are a very real source of potential new board gamers, right? The same goes for RPGers.
 
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Richard Jackson

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Gilby wrote:
SnowBass23 wrote:

I've known a few shops that supported players to varying degrees. Many of them "allowed" gaming, but that consisted entirely of CCGs and everyone else felt out of place/had no room to play.


You do realize that those CCGers are a very real source of potential new board gamers, right? The same goes for RPGers.


Oh, no, not these players! I'm a big CCGer and equal opportunity gamer myself, but the players at this shop are all Pro Tour wannabes. When I generically say "CCGs" what I should have said was M:tG!
 
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J.L. Robert
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hend wrote:
The FLGS here is definitely a LGS, they're right near the downtown sector and have a significant amount of board games, but they also lack the F part.


This is the important thing to remember, boys and girls. Not all LGS' are FLGS'. The LGS is fact. The F is earned.
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Josh P.
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Open your own game store and watch the cash roll in. In this economy, you could hire Martin Wallace as a greeter and Reiner Knizia to run your register and pay them by the pound from the local feed store.
 
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Ryan Smith
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joshp wrote:
Open your own game store and watch the cash roll in. In this economy, you could hire Martin Wallace as a greeter and Reiner Knizia to run your register and pay them by the pound from the local feed store.
Don't tempt me!

I have actually considered it several times, sell board games on one side, geek crack (CCG's, comics, memorabilia, etc) on the other and cackle with glee as I make money hand over fist.

Then I realize I have a great stable job with medical benefits and I can leave the stress of work at work when I go home and scrap the whole dream
 
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Jamey Philipp
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Sprydle wrote:
rsmithx wrote:

But at the same time I can understand the local retailers mindset of "why bothering to cater to these guys, they never buy anything ever anyway"...

And the vicious cycle continues...


Well, sort of.... But the game store is the one who is in business, not the customer, and the days of having a captive market because the next store is 50 miles away are long gone. It's up to businesses and owners to go "out of their way" to make the experience of shopping in their store a step above the impersonal internet.


Agree, but with the profit margins now days thanks to on-line stores it is important to remember than people who don't actually buy anything are not customers, they are charity cases. Quite often people come in, hang around, talk about stuff, get advice, get help, and when they get their nickel's worth of freebies walk out the door and order on-line to a person who they have never met.

OP - The gate swings both ways. The best approach is to buy a few games over a short period of time and start a dialog about what you want to buy from him and take it a step a time. You might be surprised what being a patron will do . And what is the worst case scenario - you overspend for a couple games to the total tune of 20 bucks or so. you've never knowingly pissed away 20 bucks on crap in the past?
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Frank Hussey
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Hey Ryan,

I live about a half hour away from you in Olympia. I'm a little surprised there's a shop in Shelton that carries any board games.
I'm sympathetic to your frustrations. I think there's a real joy in helping someone find what they want -- or find something awesome that they didn't know they wanted. So I don't understand why people become hobby retailers (it ain't for the money) if they don't take pleasure from the process.
Of course, the point of the store for the owner might be to attract other train enthusiasts that he can talk about trains with and he could give a damn about everything else.

I think your idea of offering to create game events for the store is great. I dunno how much space they have, but if you're willing to do the work then maybe the owner will be interested. Maybe he could even offer a small discount for people you bring in. As to prices, I'll admit I've ordered online a few times also. But I realize that high brick and morter prices are just the non-discounted prices. From a retail point of view, board games can take up a lot of space and move slowly. Giving the discount that we can get online probably means 0% profit to the local retailer. So I can't really fault them...if they are a great store in all the other important ways.

There are a couple game shops in Oly. Danger Room Comics is downtown and is primarily a comics shop. They've probably only got about 30 - 35 board games but the selection is pretty good.
Lacey Cards & Comics is a pop culture collectibles and game store. The selection is large and good. They do have game nights but mostly collectible games.

I run a monthly group in Olympia that meets at my house (for the time being anyway). If you are interested in that, please check out our guild space (Olympia Dice Shavers Local 212) and/or send me an email. Full disclosure: I am affiliated with Danger Room and started this group while I still worked there.



 
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