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Subject: How are the game stores in your area? rss

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Brent Mair
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Roy
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I recently posted on this forum somewhere that the majority of game stores suffer from problems that prevent the stores from helping to grow the hobby. Problems such as dark stores, comic-book images on the windows and interior, unfriendly staff, even a strange smell.

I was challenged on my comments and perhaps I am wrong. I've been in a couple dozen stores in five or so states in the last few years and I've seen some very good stores and some dives. My sample is likely not representative so I'm interested in anecdotal evidence regarding the stores you have visited. Are they clean, well lit, friendly, and well stocked?


In my area they are a mixed bag. There are a few that definitely have there share of problems including those I mentioned above. We have one store about 40 miles from my house that almost does everything correct (at least as they pertain to my tastes). www.gamenightgames.com sells only board and card games. No miniatures, no CCGs, no RPGs. Plenty of selection, play area for 30 or more gamers, and a knowledgeable staff of gamers. Not ideal for RPGers or CCGers but since they don't sell comics or those game types I mentioned the store is definitely easily accessible by the average folk that stumbles in. I believe they cover costs but I expect they lose a fair amount of sales by not carrying CCGs and minis.

So again, I ask, how good are the game stores in your area?

The second question I have continues the assumption that a game store should be well lit, stocked and accessible to the average person in order to be good. I'm sure not everyone shares my view. But the question is:

Does a store that is well lit, free of dark or sensual images (comic images) lose its appeal to the core base of the game industry? Are these comic images, RPG posters, etc., necessary to maintain what is for most stores the bread and butter of their business? Not many stores survive on RPG sales but many do rely on CCGs and miniatures.

Perhaps the first question will answer the second. Give me your opinions.
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Kent Reuber
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San Mateo
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Our local game store is Gator Games (http://gatorgames.com/). Very nicely run, well lit, and not scary. thumbsup

To me, I want a place that's nicely laid out with friendly staff.
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Brian Morris
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Raytown
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My FLGS is Tabletop in Overland Park Kansas. The store is very well lit with clean white walls covered with games rather than comic book posters. The store in in a place that use to be a Jazzercise studio. The result is the floor is a nice wooden cushioned floor. Cushioned meaning the floor has just a touch of bounce to it when you walk across it, especially in certain spots. The only really oddball thing on the walls is a sign next to the door into the gaming room. It's from a local state prison and list the maximum inmate population for the prison cell. I so much want that sign for my game room.

Overall the store is as clean and nice as any nice store you would hope for. No bad smells or weird comic book posters.
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Lucio Rodriguez
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Riverside
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My local game store is GMI Games and Collectables, inconveniently located within walking distance (a long walk, most of a mile, but still accessible) of my home.

The store is well lit, has several fans attached to the walls, and is run by some really excellent people (a husband and wife); they're really good people, and the store regulars are always greeted (or threatened) by name. To further exacerbate the excellence of this store, they have a relatively clean restroom, vending machines for snacks and soda, and are located next to a Wendy's, Domino's Pizza, Chinese food, Coldstone ice cream, and a grocery store. And a salon, which I just listed jokingly, but realized how awesome it would be to suggest the wife go to the salon while you "hop into this game store here."

One of the most helpful things about the store is a simple program Catherine started a few years ago before Christmas. Anyone who wants to can ask for an index card to list what games/ccgs/rpg books/etc they want, and Catherine keeps them in a small card file. That person can then tell people they're "registered" at GMI if someone wants to get them a gift. Then again, Catherine usually knows what the regulars are interested in anyway.
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Phillip Heaton
United States
Springfield
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My main game store is Game Parlor, in Chantilly Virginia. They have four large tables for miniature games. They have 12 plus smaller tables for board games and CCGs. They even have a room for role-players. They carry card games, board games, war games, miniatures, paints, terrain, CCGs, and role-playing games. They have a discount of sorts, called loyalty points, where a percentage of your purchase is available for discount on your next purchase. The staff is knowledgeable and they will let you look at a game before you buy it. They usually have demo copies of the newest games available (for us regulars anyway). Yes, they sell comics, but it doesn't intrude on the gaming experience.
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Boseafus Jones
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I'm with Lucio on GMI games in Riverside, Ca. area. I travel up and down the coast and GMI is one of my favorites. Ton of games, great owners who work very hard to see the store thrive. The gaming area is also top notch. It seems like there are events scheduled all the time at this store. I was just in there today to pick up a few more Flames of War miniatures to finish my DAK army but was looking at the great selection of board games.

I would also say that Game Empire in San Diego and Passadena is an amazing set of stores. Well staffed. Great space. Well stocked and the owner really cares about the look/feel of his stores.

While I do purchase online when there is an outstanding deal, I prefer to purchase from these FLGS simply because the service and attention paid to customer relationships is a high priority for them.
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Jacco Versteeg
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Crewe
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I have two local stores, for a given value of 'local'. They're in Central London, and I am not, but as stores go, they are the closest ones.

Playin' Games is quite nice. Has a broad range of stock, with the more traditional games upstairs, and the modern games and RPG collections downstairs. It's a bit cramped, but always looks clean, has friendly staff and is easy to reach. Been there several times and never walk out without buying something.

Orc's nest I don't like very much. The interior is metal, so you really don't want to be wearing hard soled shoes lest you go deaf from walking around the store. It's main content seems to be miniatures and RPG stuff, with some board games thrown in. Although lighting and cleanliness are fine, I don't like the interior. Also, the staff aren't very good. Maybe I should go back a few more times, but the one time I was there, the guy on the counter was busy playing some game or other with some friends, and looked pretty pissed off at having to help me with my new acquisitions. Not the kind of attitude I appreciate. Not to mention the fact that I had to wait for too long to actually get his attention.

I know there are a few more stores in London, but they're all out of the way for me, so I've never actually been there. I've bought online from one of them (Leisure Games), and I haven't got any complaints about that, so that part of their service is fine.

As far as appeal goes: a store like Playin' Games appeals much, much more to me than any store seems to feel the need to create a 'gamey' atmosphere. Decoration wise, what I like is clear displays of what is there, maybe some nice displays of particularly attractive pieces (fancy chess games, specialty dice, miniatures etc.), things like that. I come there to buy stuff, possibly have a chat with someone about games, but that's it.
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Lori
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Durham
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I've got 2 local stores; All Fun and Games (Cary, NC) is excellent and meets your description, which I largely agree with. It's clean and has normal retail lighting, and the staff are normally friendly and helpful. Their window displays are, maybe not exclusively, but definitely tilted toward the traditional stuff that nongamers would recognize (which is fine by me! The rest of us know perfectly well why we're there, so let them get on with attracting whatever additional business they need to stay afloat.). Now that I think of it, I also realize that the jigsaw puzzles, Monopoly and such traditional games, party games, chess sets, and so forth are physically at the front of the store. So if you are a normal person (my condolences!), you don't have to find your way through a bunch of weird lookin' stuff before you can get that copy of Candyland for Junior. They have all that stuff too--RPGs, CCGs, minis, etc.--but I think the store is set up to be nongamer-friendly, while also working perfectly well for the various gamer demographics.

Our other local store, not so much. They keep a large and stinky dog in the store, and the interior is usually a bit disorderly. They have a very modest selection of boardgames, but don't really seem that interested in boardgamers' business. Their orientation is CCG/RPG/minis, and maybe they go like a breeze with that crowd. I couldn't say.
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St.John Wright
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I live in London and have three (relatively) local wargame stores: Orc's Nest, Playin' Games and Leisure Games. There used to be four or five more.

Orc's Nest has a very good selection of boardgames upstairs - usually full ranges of GMT, CoA, MMP, AP, DG, S&T etc. It is RPG-heavy, but looks after wargamers well. I have been visiting the shop since 1990 and have never had problems with the staff.

Playin' Games is family game-heavy, with a wargames department in the basement. A pretty good selection although chaotically arranged. Friendly staff.

Leisure Games is more in the suburbs. It stocks family games, chess etc, RPGs and wargames. Good selection, friendly staff.
 
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John Di Ponio
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In Michigan, it seems like FLGS stores are dying. This seemed to start back in the late 90's. Most of the board game suppliers seemed to be rolled into 'HOBBY SHOPS' where the board games were given little space and basically had a non helpful staff concerned only with their trains and R/C stuff.
It's hard to find a place that is not CCG or Minature game places. I have had to resort to internet companies for the past 10 years. Its unfortunate that there is no really good game store in my area....maybe I should open one!
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Chris Talbot
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Northwest Territories
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I'm in the eastern suburbs of Toronto in Canada, and there are a handful of stores that carry games, although only one that is exclusively a gaming store.

GNU Books in Ajax is the closest one to me, but it's more of a used book store with comics, with a handful of older RPGs, several CCGs and some Warhammer 40K/Fantasy stuff. The store doesn't carry board games. Since I'm not into Warhammer and I rarely buy any CCG stuff, I don't go into GNU very often. As to be expected, it has that used book store smell, which I really don't mind but does bother some people. It has several tables for the Warhammer and CCG crowd, but it seems they're rarely used. If the store carried board games, it would probably be the place I'd go to regularly to play (only because of location).

I describe Wyldstar in Oshawa as an "all things geek" store. It carries RPGs (all out of date, some of which have sat on shelves or in bins for at least fifteen years -- I kid you not; the owner doesn't understand the point of trying to blow out stock by reducing prices, so even old RPGs nobody wants are still full MSRP), a handful of board games (usually over-priced), a lot of comics and graphic novels (but it's had distributor problems the last couple of years, so it sucks as a comic book store these days), anime and other DVDs, a ton of toys, CCGs and a some miniatures here and there.

Wyldstar recently did some renovations, but the store is still kind of dark. Prior to the renovations, though, it was dusty and dirty, with piles of stuff in the middle of the narrow aisles. Whenever I left, I really wanted to wash my hands. And while I get along with the owner and the employees, I've seen him treat some customers very poorly. He also won't stand behind merchandise on many occasions. If something in a box you buy is broken, well ... tough.

For those who like to hang out and play games in a game store, Wyldstar is not the place. There are no tables and chairs, and I get the feeling the owner doesn't want people just hanging out and playing games.

Just up the street from Wyldstar is Worlds Collide, which is my FLGS. Although the store's main business is comics (which is fine, as I read my comics and buy them there), Worlds Collide has always carried CCGs, a few miniatures, RPGs and some board games. Over the last couple of years, the board game selection has drastically increased. In fact, they did some renovations in the store just to better accommodate the growing board game section and to have a place where people can play games.

Worlds Collide is clean, well-lit and has some of the friendliest staff. They do their jobs, but they'll also chit-chat with whoever walks through the door. As one of the employees puts it, Worlds Collide runs on the concept of the "clubhouse mentality." People are welcome to just come and hang out; the guys there know the regulars will buy something eventually.

The only down side is that the board game selection tends to be more along the lines of American games from Days of Wonder and FFG, as well as very light Euros. One of the employees runs a regular, weekly board game night, and he and the other gamers who attend the night tend to like games with high production values, so that's what the store carries.

However, Worlds Collide is awesome about special orders. If I tell the owner, Tim, that I want something, he'll order it and put it in my file.

A little to the east of Worlds Collide and Wyldstar is Skyfox Games, but I really don't like the vibe there. It has plenty of space for playing games, but the store mainly carries CCGs and Warhammer 40K/Fantasy. It's dimly-lit, but the board games (over-priced) and RPGs are shoved in a corner where they can be forgotten about. Since it's also the biggest Games Workshop retailer in the area, the staffers are also big on GW. I'm not, so I try to avoid Skyfox. The playing area is really only for Warhammer and M:tG, but if you're into those games, there are regular tournaments.

Chris
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Penny
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It depends on the store. I have been to many good game stores near Phila./NY/Boston area that are nicely lit, clean with good supply of games. But then there are always stores mostly selling minis or yu gi oh card gasmes etc and host those magic tournaments in the basement of a dark establishment which totally lack any sort of proper ventilation. So when you look at the shelves with boardgames, you have to endure the stench of a fusion between human sweat, pizza and bathroom. =p
 
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Phil Shepherd
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Arlington
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Spielguy wrote:

I was challenged on my comments and perhaps I am wrong. I've been in a couple dozen stores in five or so states in the last few years and I've seen some very good stores and some dives. My sample is likely not representative so I'm interested in anecdotal evidence regarding the stores you have visited. Are they clean, well lit, friendly, and well stocked?


I'll step forward as the challenger to your post yesterday. I'll admit that The Game Parlor, as mentioned by Philgamer, is likely an exceptional store, in the sense that I could think of little that they could improve upon. Whenever I travel somewhere I try to look for and check out local gamestores, and none have ever compared to The Game Parlor, but, on the other hand, none have ever been dark, dirty or smelly. Additionally, while no longer around, we used to have the Gamekeeper, and later Wizards of the Coast stores. They were both well lit, etc. etc., although their selections were not quite great.

Maybe I've just been lucky and your experiences are closer to the norm. At any rate, I'm glad you've got an open mind and are willing to re-evaluate your stance.


Philgamer wrote:
My main game store is Game Parlor, in Chantilly Virginia. They have four large tables for miniature games. They have 12 plus smaller tables for board games and CCGs. They even have a room for role-players. They carry card games, board games, war games, miniatures, paints, terrain, CCGs, and role-playing games. They have a discount of sorts, called loyalty points, where a percentage of your purchase is available for discount on your next purchase. The staff is knowledgeable and they will let you look at a game before you buy it. They usually have demo copies of the newest games available (for us regulars anyway). Yes, they sell comics, but it doesn't intrude on the gaming experience.


Phil, you may already know this, but there's also a Game Parlor in Woodbridge, across from Potomac Mills. Its also outstanding. I prefer the Chantilly Game Parlor, but its fun to roam around the Woodbridge shop when I'm in the area. I think they're about the same distance from Springfield.
 
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Heckle Jekyll
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Knox
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Quote:
How are the game stores in your area?


What game stores?

I live in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Could someone tell me where is the closest game store?



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Mark Crocker
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Westland
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I live in SE Michigan and there are two Game stores within a 10 mile radius of my place. The first is small and cramped and has a very small table near the front window, whis is(or was) often populated by grubby loud/foul mouthed teenagers playing various CCGs. Dunno if this is still the case, because the owner (or employee) once rubbed me the wrong way, and I vowed to myself that I'd never go back.

I recently discovered a new one even closer. It has about an 80/20 percent split between miniatures/CCGs and boardgames. It is large, well lit, and adjacent to the showroom is a very large gaming room with many chairs, tables, and snack and beverage machines. Plus it is open until midnight on most days. Now you would think that this would be a fine place...........however, the place INDEED has a strange odor about it. Yes it is Body odor! Permanent and unescapable.

I withheld the names of these establishments, to protect the innocent (if innocents exist).
 
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Heroes Games and Hobbies in Sparks, Nevada has everything you would expect to find in a well stocked game store - miniatures, CCGs, RPGs - as well as a large selection of board and card games (European and American, light and heavy).

What separates them from other stores is that the owners go out of their way for their customers and provide a friendly venue for all sorts of gaming -- including board games. They have a large, well lit, open gaming area separated from the rest of the store and another smaller room (for RPGers and board gamers) that even has French doors you can open when the weather is nice.

For a store that caters to so many demographics they do a great job of making the place inviting and comfortable for everyone. Highly recommend.





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Nathan Collins
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RIW Hobbies in Livonia Michigan is probably one of the best ran stores I've been in. They own three locations in the strip mall. They have two gaming areas, both of which, are located outside of the main store. They also have a small demo play area set up in the back and front of hte store.

Everyones always helpful and they are very customer friendly.
 
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Brent Mair
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Roy
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I'm very glad to hear that most posters have good game stores in their area. Very enlightening and encouraging. Not many people are talking about bad stores. Do those of you that have good stores also have bad ones in the area?
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Michelle Zentis
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Philgamer wrote:
My main game store is Game Parlor, in Chantilly Virginia. They have four large tables for miniature games. They have 12 plus smaller tables for board games and CCGs. They even have a room for role-players. They carry card games, board games, war games, miniatures, paints, terrain, CCGs, and role-playing games. They have a discount of sorts, called loyalty points, where a percentage of your purchase is available for discount on your next purchase. The staff is knowledgeable and they will let you look at a game before you buy it. They usually have demo copies of the newest games available (for us regulars anyway). Yes, they sell comics, but it doesn't intrude on the gaming experience.


I'm also in the metro DC area, so Game Parlor is mine as well. I'm closer to the Woodbridge location, which is also clean, well-lit, and well-stocked. And Woodbridge has probably twice as much gaming space as Chantilly. Both stores host gaming events, from sponsored demos and contests to casual gaming groups.

You can see the splendor here: http://www.gameparlor.com/Store/store.html
 
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Eric Jome
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I regularly play games at Adventures in Gaming in Milwaukee, WI (9115 W Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee, 53227).

This store is very well lit, clean, and well stocked. The staff is very friendly - indeed, the customers are often helpful and friendly too.

The atmosphere of the store in the evening is not, in my opinion, very family friendly. Most of the patrons are old school gamers in the company of adults - adult subjects, language, and atmosphere are the rule. It has more the feel of a pub than anything else, although alcohol and smoking are strictly forbidden. I don't think any visiting parent would be particularly enthusiastic about leaving their low teenage child there ... which is a shame really. I've known many of the patrons for years and while they'd tend to make sailors blush with the way they talk, the vast majority are very good sorts. Perhaps they don't cut the most dashing figures, but they're smart and friendly and the environment is, to my mind, very safe. Certainly any adult into gaming in the evening (and not too prudish) would find the place a great pleasure - I certainly do.

So, my FLGS isn't perfect, but it's a great deal better than the vast majority of places I've been in... which in a lifetime of travel and convention attendance has been a lot.
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Mark Stadel
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Calgary
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Spielguy wrote:

So again, I ask, how good are the game stores in your area?


In Calgary, we have one of the largest gaming stores in Canada, that being the Sentry Box (http://www.sentrybox.com/). They have huge selections of board games, miniatures, RPGs, CCGs, wargames, and SF/F books plus ample space for gaming (its a big place). Well lit, friendly and knowledgeable staff, and they carry just about everything that is in print.

Some other smaller shops in town too, mostly in malls ... boardgames are also often sold in (gasp!) comic stores.

Spielguy wrote:

The second question I have continues the assumption that a game store should be well lit, stocked and accessible to the average person in order to be good. I'm sure not everyone shares my view. But the question is:

Does a store that is well lit, free of dark or sensual images (comic images) lose its appeal to the core base of the game industry? Are these comic images, RPG posters, etc., necessary to maintain what is for most stores the bread and butter of their business? Not many stores survive on RPG sales but many do rely on CCGs and miniatures.


Obviously what you call a "nice" store is what is under discussion here ... I don't see a lot of gaming boutiques emerging anytime soon ... boardgaming is never going to be that popular or socially accepted. And retailers, well they sell what they can to make a profit and they do so with as little expenses as they can. Why not put up advertisements for products they're selling? Most stores around here have so much display space there's not that much room for ads anyways. But suggesting that people wont go into a store because of a few posters is absurd, IMHO.
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Eric Jome
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Spielguy wrote:
I'm very glad to hear that most posters have good game stores in their area. Very enlightening and encouraging. Not many people are talking about bad stores. Do those of you that have good stores also have bad ones in the area?


Not that I know of. The two semi-famous places that have gone under in recent years, Napoleon's and Adventure Games Plus, were both fine establishments. The new kid on the block, Boardgame Barrister, is a fantastic place although I rarely get to attend or shop there. The chain hobby shops that sell boardgames and run events are, as their franchise no doubt demands, immaculate and business-like.
 
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Boseafus Jones
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Spielguy wrote:
I'm very glad to hear that most posters have good game stores in their area. Very enlightening and encouraging. Not many people are talking about bad stores. Do those of you that have good stores also have bad ones in the area?


Sure. I wont' mention names of stores in my area but there are a few that do fit your description of the game store that's doing it wrong. A couple of them have or will cease to exist in the near future because of bad business practices. There is one though that I would have put in this category but a few months ago I started to notice some considerable changes. The employees were making a real effort to be friendly and helpful, the space in the store was set up so that I could find things and well stocked.

I also forgot to mention a GREAT store that's just a little too far away for me to play weekly but I have been there a few times. Gameology. Great store in the so. cal. area for board games!
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Phil Shepherd
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Spielguy wrote:
Do those of you that have good stores also have bad ones in the area?


There is one store in my area, which, once upon a time, had an odor problem. The store was and still is small and cramped, but apparently is under new management and I haven't noticed any odor in over a year. The odor was really the only *problem* the store ever had, in my opinion. On the other hand, I can't really speak to their customer service, as I shop there infrequently (its not near me, so I only go there when I'm "in the area") and I usually go into any game store without questions (having done my research here ahead of time).
 
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Bill Eldard
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Philgamer wrote:
My main game store is Game Parlor, in Chantilly Virginia. They have four large tables for miniature games. They have 12 plus smaller tables for board games and CCGs. They even have a room for role-players. They carry card games, board games, war games, miniatures, paints, terrain, CCGs, and role-playing games. They have a discount of sorts, called loyalty points, where a percentage of your purchase is available for discount on your next purchase. The staff is knowledgeable and they will let you look at a game before you buy it. They usually have demo copies of the newest games available (for us regulars anyway). Yes, they sell comics, but it doesn't intrude on the gaming experience.


And don't forget their other store in Woodbridge, VA, just off I-95. Each of the two stores is a triple-store front, with approximately 40% of the floor space devoted to gaming tables. The inventory is broad and well-organized. The stores (including the rest rooms) are very clean, well-lighted, and they sell soft drinks/snacks at very reasonable prices.

The folks at Game Parlor (both Chantilly and Woodbridge) are great supporters of the hobby, and go out of their way to accommodate gamers, staying open until 10:00pm every night.
 
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