Now that I’ve pre-ordered Gary Ray’s fascinating-looking book Friendly Local Game Store: A Five-Year Path to Middle-Class Income, it’s naturally got me thinking about what sort of a game store I’d make if I won the lottery. Naturally, this is just a thought experiment (but we can hope!).
One of the things that Gary’s Quest for Fun blog stresses is that a FLGS* must be more than a place to buy games. That’s a losing proposition, since it’s incredibly easy to buy games online at deep discounts most of the time. Thus, the FLGS has to offer more – it has to provide added community value.
In the case of the FLGS, that usually means functioning as a “community center” for gamers of sorts, offering both a place to get together and play, as well as providing a place to bring gamers together with new groups and opponents. To that I might also add being a place where new and lesser-known games can have a little time in the sun, to let customers discover new games they might not otherwise have heard of.
I’ve seen a bunch of game stores in my day, but the one that still feels like my “main” game store is The Compleat Strategist in New York City (I used to work for the one in Boston, right out of college). This is what’s known as a “shock and awe” store. It has everything, crammed in incredibly densely, and in the case of the Strategist, still marked with the original prices when the item was originally placed on the shelves (I found stuff from back in the 80’s the last time I was there). That would be a component of my dream store. Shock and awe. Because remember, this is my post-Powerball fantasy we’re talking about here.
As part of that, I would want to appeal to, and serve, the five big tabletop gamer subgroups; card games, board games, roleplaying games, miniatures, and wargames**. That would go both for the sales floor as well as the playing areas.
I envision a two-story building, with the first floor dedicated to sales, and the second dedicated to play, with a large open space in the middle to connect the two, so the players look down on the sales area.
For the sales area, I want things bright. High ceilings and lots of light. Aisles wide enough to let two people browse comfortably (not like the newly-shrunken aisles at Barnes & Noble, ugh!) but densely packed with product.
|All this empty wall space to me screams
“we’re operating on a shoestring”
Which reminds me, I’d be on the lookout for game stores going out of business. I’d pick up miniatures, wargames, and (select) RPGs. Nobody needs twenty copies of Everquest the RPG. There wouldn’t be a bargain bin, but anything that would qualify would be sold online.
I’d need staff and managers knowledgeable about specific areas, but willing to be cross-trained. For instance, I know nothing about CCGs, so I’d need a couple someones who did. But I’d insist that each was also able to be a back-up for one or more of the other areas. The same would apply everywhere.
And if I could swing it, healthcare for the employees. Hey, I’ve got Powerball money, I’m going to be the best boss I can.
In the gaming area, there would be several different things to think about. Different sorts of games need different sorts of tables. Miniatures usually need large spaces, while board games and CCGs need much smaller spaces. For RPGs, being able to hear what everyone says is a premium quality. In the interest of attracting and serving the several clubs that are active in my area, I’d definitely want to have rentable locker space to hold miniatures and wargames, to spare them having to cart the stuff around all the time. A few private gaming rooms, probably primarily for RPGs.
And I’d love a snack bar. I don’t think a bar bar would be needed since I’m aiming at a game store and not a game cafe (although I wouldn’t rule it out), but a place to get snacks and water and soda and such. Nothing too adventuresome; hot dogs, pizza, hot pretzels, ice cream, chips, etc.
* FLGS is a term that’s been around since at least the 70’s. It usually means Friendly Local Game Store, but the F can sometimes be interchanged with other, less salutary, words.