Gamers Geekery And Tavern: A Cary, North Carolina Game Store
Growing up in the mountains of Virginia, Lance didn’t have a game store to go to. However, being a board game fan, he would find the desire to build one himself. In Cary, North Carolina, a game store featuring what Gamers Geekery & Tavern offers today didn’t exist. Lance wanted to change that. His store is one of two in the town of Cary, according to Wizards of the Coast’s Store & Event Locator. Lance has an MBA in Entrepreneurship, experience working for startups, and business evaluations. He would look to put this knowledge to the test with his store.
In 2014, his friend’s wife was looking for something to do, so they partnered up and opened a retail space. However, Lance knew he wanted a bar. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do so within the confines of his first lease. Fast forward to today, the store in Cary features a 12-tap line bar and serves food at their restaurant. His business partner manages the game store – handling the day’s orders and pre-orders. On the opposite side, Lance focuses on the restaurant and the store’s market position. He says that if he were to rebuild the store, he would have preferred the “Cracker Barrel” concept with the retail space at the front and the restaurant in the back of the store.
The Staffing & Space Limitations Challenge That Ensued
Lance currently has 14-15 employees servicing the game store and restaurant. He mentions that he’s not at the store every day – usually 4-5 times a week to check in – due to having a front and back of the store manager. In addition to the game store, Lance owns a separate business. He says he views himself more as a customer of the store. Moreover, since the 2021 COVID pandemic, staffing has been the most difficult challenge. During those challenging times, employees left and found other jobs to make ends meet. However, Lance notes after 2-3 years, he feels better about the staffing side of the business.
Obtaining and retaining customers is not a struggle for the store. Additionally, there are times when Lance will have to, unfortunately, turn people away due to being at capacity on Saturdays. Sometimes there’s a “half dozen plus tables” of players to turn away, Lance notes. On a Monday, he says they can have 85 players in attendance for Commander. Tuesdays, the store can fill up with 3-4 groups of Dungeons & Dragons players. Those Tuesday players also show up on Thursdays, Lance says. The gaming focus at Gamers Geekery & Tavern centers around Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, and board games. To combat the capacity issues, Lance is building an extension across the street from his store with a target opening date of March 1st, 2024. This new space, Lance shares, will provide tables to handle overflow at the current location, card sales, and wall-mounted board games.
Accommodating And Adapting To Customer Needs
Lance attributes the attraction of customers to his place to the people living in the Cary area. He says several engineers and software developers are nearby who enjoy the hobbies his store provides. Customers can reserve a private Dungeons & Dragons room if need be. However, they can instead play in the 4,300 sq ft. of gaming space. Lance communicates to customers that they don’t have to pay for table space if one individual has a membership in the group. However, he laments that the existing space doesn’t provide enough room for hosting large tournaments. Furthermore, the new extension will provide an additional 1,600-1,800 sq ft. of space.
Gamers Geekery And Tavern Hosts Corporate Events
The sales breakdown is about 53% food and drink (beer and wine) and 47% retail. The restaurant makes the business more profitable, Lance says. One of the luxuries afforded to the store is that they host team-building corporate events about once a week. Lance confirms this has been a boon for the business. Having held 130-140-person corporate events, Lance says the most requested activity is board games. Two-player board games tend to be most popular at the store. He shares that 30-to-60-minute games see the most use. Corporate customers can book up to three venue options depending on the size of their party: small, half, or whole.
With about 620 board games to choose from and a unique appearance that doesn’t just appeal to gamers, Lance has built an establishment where people come back. This not only tracks with everyday customers but also with corporate events. His goal is to create a comfortable and hospital place for anyone walking through his doors. Lance shares that his store looks more like a restaurant than a game store. The decisions made were intentional, yet the store’s returns were unanticipated. Making the venue a more “normal” place to enter than a traditional game store has led to that comfortability in attracting more people.
“New to the area and tried it out last week. Amazing atmosphere! Kind employees (especially since this was our first time here they were so patient and helpful) food was good! The organization and variety of board games is great! And I love that you can buy them there if you like playing them! Will be back!“Rebekah Waltz Hower, Gamers Geekery & Tavern Customer
Managing Inventory & A Low Marketing Budget
Gamers Geekery & Tavern does not have an internal tracking system for their plethora of games. Furthermore, Lance categorizes board games by zone in the store. In addition, games have stickers on them to provide customers with details about the board game. Said details include difficulty, type of game, and price in case they wish to buy it after playing. However, if a game exceeds an hour and sees limited play, it’s ripe for removal. Lance will replace that game with one in the aforementioned 30-to-60-minute range. Lance used to run video game events, but the logistics became difficult. Due to concerns regarding damaged controllers, he instead provides the cables for customers to bring their consoles.
The marketing budget is small when compared to the early days of the store. Due to the demand, it’s not a necessity. He attributes a chunk of that demand to the 4.9/5 star rating the store has received on Google Reviews. In turn, Lance shifts the marketing budget to the store’s website and its staff. As a business owner, Lance will pivot if a decision is not working. He feels that trying new things can lead to better problem-solving. For example, Wednesdays are a slower day in the store. To overcome this, he’s looking to have Wednesday meetup nights to play free board games along with a raffle.
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