Dragon’s Lair: A Game Store Spanning Multiple States

Inside Dragon’s Lair at their Austin, Texas location – the original store. Photo credit: Dragon’s Lair Austin Facebook page.

At the time of this writing, Dragon’s Lair has five locations spanning multiple states: Texas and Ohio. In Texas, there are locations in Austin (the original store), Houston, and two in San Antonio. Travel north to Ohio stands the fifth store in the city of Columbus. Spearheading this endeavor is the founder and original owner – now franchisor – of Dragon’s Lair, David Wheeler. At the time of writing this article, David is working on opening a new store in San Marcos, Texas. He’s open to launching two new stores a year at most.

Dragon’s Lair in Austin dates back to 1986 and has 10,700 sq. ft of space. After selling ownership of the location in 2015, David decided to help prospective franchisees open stores. He utilizes his contacts in the industry to help them succeed. David helps find locations, negotiate the lease, and help establish a store layout and culture. The original store is one of eight in the Austin area, per Wizards of the Coast Store & Event Locator. However, David opened his store after seeing stores he had an affinity for going out of business.

Helping The Franchisees of Dragon’s Lair

With a wide variety of interests and not wanting to remain a game store owner forever. Having done so for more than 20 years, David intentionally wanted to change professions. In taking steps to become a franchisor, he didn’t think he could simultaneously be a game store owner. In addition to the aforementioned, David provides his franchisees with support for store signage. The city the store is located in can affect which higher-priced products will sell, he says. Additionally, the historical data he has available provides insight into which of those products to sell to customers.

While metrics do prove useful, David says that product ordering for a store is also based on relationships with customers. A key emphasis he notes regarding relationships with customers stems from comic book subscriptions. In the early days, he would learn the names of those customers’ subscriptions. He would then proceed to meet them at the door when they arrived at the store. Based on this Facebook review by a customer – Chris Wiki – David’s franchisees provide both selection and atmosphere for its customers:

Store has everything a card or table top gamer would want. They have a great range of both card, board and tabletop games like Warhammer. They have lots of gaming space as well. Want to play a game? Pop in or reserve on their website. Great place to hang out and get your geek on. I have been to other locations in San Antonio and the selection and atmosphere for all Dragon’s Lair stores is fantastic. Highly recommend Dragon’s Lair to all gamers and maybe-curious-and-not-sure-where-to-start-gamers. There is a game for you at Dragon’s Lair.

Chris Wiki, Dragon’s Lair Customer

Creating A Unique Customer-Focused Experience

Each store averages about 10 employees except for the Austin store which has 18. David lets his franchisees know that they should expect to put in 40-60 hours a week at the store. Due to various market conditions and the store location, he notes that each store owner has to be flexible regarding products purchased. David considers his store owners, “curators of the market.” He wants those who license his brand to be in it for the long haul and not to prey on customers through price gauging. A unique touch of each store is what David calls a ⁠”Lair Beast”⁠: a pet mascot for each store. However, the Houston store has a couple of standout features. One of which is The Tabletop Tavern. While here, customers can purchase coffee or specialty coffees in addition to pub food. In addition, this location offers a private gaming area.

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Building Relationships At Conventions

David first started playing games in 1979; seven years before opening Dragon’s Lair. As the 90s rolled around, David learned about Magic: The Gathering from a customer who had just attended a convention. Moreover, conventions became a relationship-building venture that David would partake in. He says, that in the gaming industry, interacting with publishers occurs much more at conventions. Furthermore, these gaming conventions offer more opportunities to develop relationships with small to mid-tier publishers.

You can follow Dragon’s Lair via the social media links provided on each store’s dedicated website: Austin, Columbus, Houston, San Antonio Alamo Ranch, and San Antonio Medical Center.

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