With International Tabletop Day around the corner, we’re counting down the days to the big celebration by highlighting friendly local gaming stores, their owners, and their awesome stories. Be sure to find an ITTD event near you so you can enjoy the festivities in your community.
Paul Butler is the newly-minted owner of Games and Stuff, but make no mistake: he’s no industry rookie. Paul has been involved in managing this miniature and tabletop gaming mecca for years, and is fortified with more previous experience in specialty retail which has allowed him to create brilliantly crafted events and spaces for people who are passionate fans. We got to chat with Paul about his journey to becoming a store owner, and the things that make his store and the community within it unique.
When Paul moved to Baltimore in 2009, he discovered Games and Stuff, and at the time they didn’t have a board game nerd on staff. He stepped in part-time as their “board game guy”, providing recommendations, running events, and helping the owners decide what board games to stock. Around a year later, he became the store manager and continued to bring his experience with specialty retail to the culture of the store. This culture is one of the things that make Games and Stuff special, “It’s a combination of product knowledge and customer knowledge. Not every member of the staff can know how to play every game but they need to have a passing familiarity of each area of the store. Often, board games are driven by current hot titles. If you don’t have somebody on staff who is your resident ‘board game guru’ who is aware of that title and talks to your regulars, whether or not the game is even out yet, you need to have somebody tapped into that to present yourself as legitimate.”
Paul feels that there are very real consequences to the customer experience for not maintaining great staff and keeping the culture of the store intact, “Look at Magic cards, if you are going to be a Magic shop, you better have somebody on staff who can talk about the current state of magic decks in standard tournaments or the fluctuating cost of ‘card X’. Those customers are really only interested in Magic and if they come in and talk to somebody at the counter and there is nobody to talk to them about Magic, they’re going to feel like you are just a salesperson and you are not passionate about what you are selling. The same applies to boardgames. Part of the experience is the conversations, whether or not there’s a transaction happening at the cash register. Having at least one and ideally more than that, on staff is huge. Realize who your regulars are. Knowing them and their tastes. This can personalize the recommendation process. You are sharing your enthusiasm.”
While the staff at Games and Stuff are what make the store stand out, you can’t ignore the wow factor of walking through the door. The store itself is 7700 square feet, split almost down the middle. The back half of the store is a game room and it is massive. It can legally seat 170 people and is capable of running multiple events simultaneously. The front half is equally impressive and what makes the store feel like a Mecca for miniature and tabletop gamers. “We’re a full-service games store. We have 4 different quadrants. Board games, role playing games, miniature wargames, and Magic and collectible card games. We have a community painting table where you can come in and paint, we have an airbrush hood so you can airbrush in the store. We do sell airbrushes and we carry a lot of unusual painting accessories that we import from Europe.”
I know what my first stop is going to be the next time I find myself in the Baltimore region.
What weird gaming supply do you wish your FLGS carried? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Games and Stuff