Board Game Stores Thrive in 21st Century, Provide Customers With 'Anti-Tech' Activities

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Mar. 3, 2014 12:00 am  

But the Sherwood store has stayed open for nearly a decade and has expanded and upgraded its 3,100-SF space.

Game Goblins, which opened in west Little Rock in April 2012, made a $48,000 profit on sales of $570,000 in 2013, according to co-owner Josh Wilhelmi. Profit, he said, quadrupled in the first full year, and he’s looking to grow it further.

In Conway, sales at Mizewell Games, which has been open for less than a year, have grown within its first year to provide a “decent profit,” said owner Neil Reeves, and the store is expanding and adding more products all the time.

Central Arkansas supports a handful more of these businesses: Game Zone Alpha in Jacksonville and Bat Cave Cards & Comics and Table Play Games, both in Conway, among others.

‘Third Places’

A popular feature of the stores is their function as a “third place,” or a social space distinct from home or work. Most game stores have tables set up for gaming, and usually a library of sample board games is provided. Groups of visitors can be found in the stores at all hours, and many of the stores are open long past 9 p.m.

These areas are sometimes used for organized play and tournaments, which do make money, but other times they’re just to provide a meeting place, which doesn’t necessarily make money at all.

“Board games aren’t necessarily how we’re trying to make money,” said Reeves at Mizewell. “Board games are how we get people in here.”

He said his store has a library of around 60 games that customers can play for free.

“We have, on average on Saturday nights, about 70 people in here,” said Reeves. “We don’t sell a bunch of stuff on those nights. But this is a hangout for people who don’t want to go and deal with drunk frat idiots — or they’re college students who can’t afford to go to the bar and spend 50 or 60 bucks.”

“We kind of went in with the idea that we weren’t going to charge for open play,” said Wilhelmi at Game Goblins. “The longer people are in the store — we think of it like casinos: The longer we’ve got them here, the more likely they’re going to spend money. We provide an environment with the hopes that while surrounded by product, they might be enticed to pick something up.”

The space is paid for by organized play, he said, and beyond that, it’s “a community service.”



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