AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

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goatunit
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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby goatunit » Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:46 pm

In TN, it would depend on whether I got the place classified as a restaurant. But yeah, beer is low on my list of necessities as far as the idea goes. I would really want to promote it as a safe, drug-free place for teens to hang out.

I think most of us drug users and drunks ended up turning that way in part because there was nowhere to hang out after 10pm except for some guy's couch.

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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby Ikoma » Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:34 pm

goatunit wrote:Do you think there would be any money in renting out expensive board games to be played in the store? I know that I personally would be interested in playing more board games if I could try them out before dropping $80+ on one.

I've been nurturing the idea of opening a sort of gaming cafe here in Memphis, with coffee, beer, and deli-style food. I would want to rent and sell board games, and stay open late (if not 24 hours).


Renting games (and renting game space) is something we tried. It... didn't work well for us. I have talked to a few other owners during my time and it sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't. The problems we ran into were these: games would sometimes get destroyed/hurt, people would get upset/balk at the costs, time slots wouldn't work out, or nothing would happen. In order...

The whole things worked well the first couple of times. Then a group rented a game and a soda was spilled all over the board. We had not planned ahead for this so that first loss was on us. We had not yet made enough in renting games to pay for a replacement, so... loss. We changed our policies, credit card required to schedule a game/room. And we said no food/drink around our games. (You want to rent a table to play your game? You can eat/drink.) That put a lot of people out. They didn't want to give us a credit card and/or didn't have one. And on one wanted to to give us a big wad of cash to reserve the game. And people really enjoy eating/drinking with the games. But we still have people renting games (just not as many). Then the next time a game gets damaged (I think it was pizza), the guy who put up the credit card is mad (at us AND at his friend who had snuck the pizza in). He mad at us because it's not HIS fault so why are we charging HIS card. He thinks we should go after his friend. But experience has taught us we will NEVER get money from someone in this kind of situation. He (and his friends) were very vocal about how unfair we were. And there was lots of complaining that if they were PAYING to play, why couldn't they have food? I mean, the money they were paying was to replace the game, right? <sigh> It was just a PiTA.

Then... we ran into a problem when games would run long. People would rent a table (and a game or bring their own) for a specific amount of time. And then they wouldn't be done. Either one of us wanted to go home (it's midnight OR later) or another group had reserved the table and their would be more complaining. Occasionally, they would offer to pay for another couple of hours (which would work on occasion) but most often they would not. "Just let us finish!" The other group complaining (justifiably) that it was their turn. A lot of times, it was the last game of the night and they would want to finish, but I'm tired as a dog. Day job (non-client interaction so they would let me work whenever) + school (I was finishing up my last few classes) + family (my oldest had been born) + running the store = when it was time to get to bed, I was ready for bed. Not saying lots of places don't have the, 'you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here' problem. But it was more than we could handle.

The stores I know where it worked did not charge for space or games. It was purely an advertising cost for them. Plus, when the players are not paying, they have less room to complain about rules like no food/drink and time constraints. Additionally, it turns out many game publishers have had the same thought and offer clearly marked promotion copies of their games. The owners just asked and got free copies which would make the whole thing work better.

Anyway, eventually, the rent business just dried up for us. I did find that staying open late was a requirement. Mornings were an absolutely dead zone. 24 hours would definitely be a waste. We never had to open before noon. The times we tried were among the most boring dead zones in my life. Well, I guess I got a lot of reading done. Again, this might be different in a bigger metropolitan region.

As for the food issue, we looked into it. It would be a great idea. But it would cost a lot! Food employee training and licensing, inspections, etc. At least here in Utah, if you sell food for public consumption, you gotta go through ALL the rigamarole. No exceptions. We never had the cash to put into it. And alcohol in Utah County is a crazy option. This is the heart of Mormon country and have weird laws about that. I am NOT an expert in that! <grin>

goatunit wrote:Lots of kids are dying for an interesting place to hang out at night, but that doesn't meant they have the funds to keep a business afloat.


Ugh, YES! I grew to have a real love/hate relationship with kids as a store owner. Yes, they loved having a place to hang out. No, they rarely had lots of money to spend. Occasionally, they would get lots of cash, but most of the time, they would buy a pack of cards or a comic a week. Plus, most of our shoplifting problem was teenagers. And teenage boys were the source of most of our harassment problems as well. Argh. I don't want to paint all teenagers with a single brush. There were some great ones. And I'm sure most of them group up to be great adults. But they could be serious trouble.
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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby Mersozz » Tue Apr 08, 2014 9:16 pm

goatunit wrote:In TN, it would depend on whether I got the place classified as a restaurant. But yeah, beer is low on my list of necessities as far as the idea goes. I would really want to promote it as a safe, drug-free place for teens to hang out.

I think most of us drug users and drunks ended up turning that way in part because there was nowhere to hang out after 10pm except for some guy's couch.


You are likely right. But strictly from a business standpoint, if parents know that the owner is cool, the atmosphere is friendly, and there is no booze there, they'll gladly allow their teenaged kids to hang out there late night....place it near a theatre and you draw everyone before and after the movies. Place it near a coffee shop and maybe work out a deal on coffee, etc.

I've been thinking of something similar out here in the Western Suburbs of Chicago.....a late night Books & Record (vinyl & CD) store.....open late on the weekends, with live music, poetry, book readings, games, etc. Keep it booze-free so you don't attract sloppy drunks, but also corner the market on teenagers and ex-boozers.

I love beer, and I love bars.....but wouldn't want to run one; I'm just too laid-back to deal with ugly drunks.
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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby Mersozz » Tue Apr 08, 2014 9:38 pm

BottledViolence wrote:
Mersozz wrote:
goatunit wrote:Do you think there would be any money in renting out expensive board games to be played in the store? I know that I personally would be interested in playing more board games if I could try them out before dropping $80+ on one.

I've been nurturing the idea of opening a sort of gaming cafe here in Memphis, with coffee, beer, and deli-style food. I would want to rent and sell board games, and stay open late (if not 24 hours).

Our three gaming stores keep lousy hours. Only two have table space available, all have lousy stock, and all are closed by 8pm. All are also poorly located. And yet, they all have managed to limp along. I have a feeling there is a real, viable market here for something a little different and more flexible.



Just a though on that....if you go without the alcohol, you could attract alot of teenaged gamers, along with adults. Kids that are under-21 are dying for an interesting place to hang out at night. You'd dodge alot of regs if you didn't serve booze.



That depends a lot on the state. Back when arcades were a thing, a lot of them sold beer and still had plenty of teenagers coming in. The pool halls restrict it to 17 and up after 6 PM mostly to avoid the issues of underage drinking. MI doesn't (or didn't) have age restrictions on who could be in places that sold alcohol, just that you couldn't serve people under 21 or allow them to drink.

Lots of kids are dying for an interesting place to hang out at night, but that doesn't meant they have the funds to keep a business afloat. The profit margins on alcohol are pretty good, and could go a long way towards subsidizing the gaming space. Would you rather have 5 kids rent a board game and share a pizza, or have 5 people rent a board game, split a pizza, and have 3 or 4 beers each? Then if they're anything like my friends, after a couple beers want to eat again. :lol:


I think that if cashflow becomes an issue, you have invite some college kids to jam out, charge a cover, and see how that goes.

The booze route is always open, but frankly then you're competing against bars, and that ushers in it's own set of challenges.
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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby BottledViolence » Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:57 am

Having booze doesn't put you in competition with bars any more than having a band puts you in competition with a concert hall. On the other hand, you are more likely to drive off customers with a band and cover.

The store I was involved with had similar results as Ikoma experienced. The gaming space was free and they didn't rent games but the free to use terrain for wargaming was constantly getting damaged. The only reason to open before noon was to accept deliveries. Staying open late (midnight) was great. The older crowd was who spent the most money wanted to go out and tended to leave by then and the younger kids were long gone.

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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby goatunit » Wed Apr 09, 2014 7:12 am

Yeah, I mean most parents don't think twice about their teenagers going to Applebee's with friends at 9pm, even though there's an actual bar and drunk dudes there. It's a matter of branding.

I just feel like there's a missed opportunity here, since we have a large enough gaming community to support a yearly convention, but the only public play spaces expect you to come in after work at 6pm and then leave when they close at 8pm. Everything beyond hours and location seems secondary, considering that one variable. But I don't have any experience, so there you go.

Another question:

I understand that most businesses that deal in collectibles have a really hard road when it comes to getting insured. Did you have that experience? Did you find any solutions?

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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby Ikoma » Wed Apr 09, 2014 2:42 pm

Nights were an absolutely gold mine for us. We did most of our register work between the hours of 3pm and 9pm. Kids getting out of school was the first rush, replaced by college kids getting out a little later, adults getting off work were next, with a final rush as whoever was gonna settle in for the night came by. We did regularly stay open until 10pm on weeknights and midnight (or later) on weekends.

goatunit wrote:I understand that most businesses that deal in collectibles have a really hard road when it comes to getting insured. Did you have that experience? Did you find any solutions?


Yeah.. enough so that we didn't do it. The building that we rented space in had a generic policy that we were riders on. However, it wouldn't have completely covered us in the event of fire or massive theft. It was a risk we took thanks mostly to none of us drawing our livelihoods from the store. Had I been the sole owner/proprietor who was supporting his family from the store, I would have had to find a way. Ultimately, the problem boiled down to the number we wanted to insure. Basically, the insurance companies just wants to know how much they could be on the hook for and they set deductible appropriately. The challenge for collectables stores is that the items are classified as 'easy to steal' and that adds to the deductible.
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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby goatunit » Wed Apr 09, 2014 2:56 pm

When planning a location, how much emphasis would you put on trying to net walk-by traffic? Did you find that a lot of your first-time visits came from people who saw your sign out front, or did most customers look up "comic shop" in the Yellow Pages and come out specifically to find you?

Also, I've frequently had the experience of hanging out in a gaming store when someone comes in looking for something like Jenga or Scrabble or a chess board, only to see them look around confused for a minute and then exit. Did you see a lot of people looking for "normal" games? Did you do anything to try and court that market?

Something my prospective partners and I have talked about is reaching out to local school chess clubs and stuff like that. We would want people with a casual curiosity to come in and see some things they recognize. Does that strike you as a waste of resources?

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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby Ikoma » Wed Apr 09, 2014 3:40 pm

goatunit wrote:When planning a location, how much emphasis would you put on trying to net walk-by traffic? Did you find that a lot of your first-time visits came from people who saw your sign out front, or did most customers look up "comic shop" in the Yellow Pages and come out specifically to find you?

Also, I've frequently had the experience of hanging out in a gaming store when someone comes in looking for something like Jenga or Scrabble or a chess board, only to see them look around confused for a minute and then exit. Did you see a lot of people looking for "normal" games? Did you do anything to try and court that market?

Something my prospective partners and I have talked about is reaching out to local school chess clubs and stuff like that. We would want people with a casual curiosity to come in and see some things they recognize. Does that strike you as a waste of resources?


Part of our problem was our location. Not much walking traffic and not good parking. Yeah... not a good mix. Plus, like I've said before, we were a block and a half from the other game store in town. The original owner made a mistake in choosing a location based almost entirely on price per sq.ft. and we were kinda stuck with it. So yeah, most of our customers had looked us up rather than just wandered in.

If I were gonna do it over, I would be fine paying more for less space IF there was a lot of related walk-by traffic. Since we sold comics, I was dying to get near a theater. New Spider-man movie? Lots of Spider-man graphic novels, shirts, etc. And so on...

One thing I realized was that you do NOT need to stock deep in a game/comic store (with a few exceptions). You do not need to have ten copies of the World of Darkness rulebook on hand. You can re-order within a week. You don't want to run out, obviously, but you never want to have more on hand than you might sell in two weeks. But you do need to stock broad. You never know when you are gonna get a Shadowrun fan, or a World of Darkness fan, or a Legend of the Five Rings fan, etc.

Oh yeah, we had a constant small influx of 'normals' looking for monopoly and the kind of stuff you listed. We tried carrying chess boards for a while but found that those kinds of games have a very different selling market. Basically, most games are one shot purchases. You buy Scrabble. You don't need to buy the expansion. Our business model was selling a lot to a few customers. If you want to sell the other stuff, you need to sell a little to a lot of customers. And that takes stocking space we did not have.

We had a lot of success reaching out to local gaming clubs of a variety of stripes. Including chess clubs. (See our trying to stock chess boards.) But it ended up being easier to just bulk order for them (at essentially cost) rather than to stock the shelves. It got them in and frequently got them into other games. The truth is that many 'traditional' board games are more luck than skill. The few exceptions melded pretty well into our store mix, but we still couldn't stock enough of the others to develop a big customer base.
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Re: AMA About running a gaming and comics store.

Postby Burning » Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:28 pm

What are some common expectations customers had of what goods and/or services your store would provide. Particularly, were there any expectations that people had that were unreasonable from the standpoint of trying to run a thriving business?
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