Building a Game Shop: Part 1

Progress towards opening a game shop

How hard could it be to open a friendly local game shop? Writeup a good plan, gather a bunch of money, find a good location, buy some inventory, build some shelves, and put said inventory on said shelves. Oh and open the door. Yeah. Well this, where a dump truck lived in our store, was February but the story starts well before then.

The Question

If you could live anywhere and do anything what would you do? That is a tricky question and one we faced about a year ago now. The question has some implied finality to it as well which is misleading because really what is wrong with having a goal that only encompasses the indefinite time of “…for now?” After deciding to leave my academic position the question of what to do was a huge hurdle and that’s when this harebrained idea of opening a game shop first came up, immediately followed by the even bigger question of where.

Denver and the Front Range is a pretty saturated market when it comes to game shops and we needed a change of locale anyway so we started looking for a new home, a place that could use the kind of shop we envisioned, and a place we could really enjoy living. We looked at cities of over 50,000, more if there was already a shop or two there, predominately in the West and we also looked at beer towns, places with a like minded population that might enjoy tabletop games, and places that were walkable and bike-able. That’s when we found Bend.

Old Mill

Here was a great, off-beat location in a former lumber mill with a lot of potential and just the right amount of rough edges. Promises of a new parking lot outside, new restrooms and dividing walls inside, and a thriving community of businesses including a skateboard shop and cider tasting room on either side and a new grocery store across the street. A lease was drafted, money was exchanged, and we started preparing to move to our new home and get to work in March.

Game Shop Recon

We started by visiting every game shop in our local area, visited shops when we traveled, and made a point of visiting every shop along the route from Colorado to Oregon. At last count, at least 27 game shops in total with some good but sadly most not so much.

Store not to be named

Nothing says friendly local game shop like tripping over piles of junk stacked in the aisles. Obviously not one of my favorites. When the store worked however, and appeared even moderately successful, it would at least be clean and well-stocked with various degrees of friendly staff.

Haunted Game Cafe

The ubiquitous slot wall was ubiquitous but otherwise the important thing we noticed was that game shops needed to be inviting and comfortable–a place where you felt comfortable spending some time, a place like a cafe or bar.

Five Tribes at Enchanted Grounds

A place where you could play a good game with a good drink in hand.

The Plan

A full-fledged cafe was pretty much completely out of the picture from the beginning however serving bottles of beer wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility and nothing goes better with game night than a good beer.

Mockery Brewing

Something like a brewery with cozy yet open spaces, modern interior, and roll-up doors–a proper gathering place. Above is Mockery Brewing, one of the newest breweries in Denver showing off some serious design chops in their new tasting room.

This formed the basis of our design process.

Slow Progress is Slow

Frustrated trying to get the game shop started from 1,200 miles away, we accelerated our relocation plans and rolled into town in February only to find that the property was a very long way from the promised March completion date. Problems with the plumbing meant large trenches cut out of the foundation and even larger dump trucks.


Since nothing else was being done, we thought we might as well have these hundred year old beams sandblasted. Not cheap but totally worth it.


From here, because of in part the age of the building, we’ve been in an odd state of purgatory while our change of tenancy is held in limbo by the city until some series of at least unknown to us events should come to pass of which I only have vague notions of. Some walls have been built…


But it’s usually in odd fits and starts.


And because there are not already enough half started projects we might as well tear out the parking lot…


To Be Continued

If you’ve made it this far you might be thinking that I come across as, well tired or frustrated might be fitting, but I honestly couldn’t be more excited and happy for the future of our little tabletop game shop and hobby bar. I just wish the powers that be would move a little faster. Part two will hopefully pick up with the sheetrock, painting, and furniture building as we move ever closer to store opening.