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.
A well-stocked local game shop is a good thing, but a super chill and welcoming local game shop where the owners don’t even care if you buy something (as long as you’re nice) is an insanely great thing–and that’s just what the gamers of Bozeman, Montana have in Rook’s Comics and Games.
For the past 10 ½ years, Lincoln and Sara Erickson have been giving gamers a place to play games and just hang out. They’ve had to move to a bigger space twice, each time keeping the retail footage about the same but adding more and more room for people to kick back and play. We spoke to Lincoln, and he talked to us about how his story, his store, and the gaming community within it.
There are very few people who grow up in this world thinking they’re going to own a game store for a living, and Lincoln was no exception. “I got a BA in Economics and Philosophy and promptly went to work for UPS using nothing I went to school for,” he told us. He ended up working in construction, full 12 hour days with travel, at which point Sara, his wife, simply told him, “You need to do something else.” As he tells it, “The game shop in town was for sale, so we bought it.” He describes it as a pretty steep learning curve saying, “Prior to that I had played Magic and that was it.”
Lincoln started in the store, working 80 hours a week at first, but his hard work paid off. They grew the store from a scant 800 square feet to 2,000 square feet, and then expanded again to 5,000 square feet over the year. The store boasts over 3,000 square feet of play space with tables, where players play CCGs, miniature games and board games. On average, there are 10-25 regular players in the store every night, with more if there’s a large organized event.
“By and large, everyone seems to get along.” Lincoln boasts about the store’s community. “Over the years we haven’t had too many problems with people. It usually works out just fine.” He described his community as one made up of a huge variety of people. “There are a lot of people who play in their houses, a lot of people who play here. There’s a local college that is a huge percentage of the town’s population, a lot of college-age kids, a lot of smart people who like to play games, and that helps for sure.”
One of the marked differences in his approach that he doesn’t shy from is that he and his store is welcoming to people who want to play more games. “I think board games are awesome and you know, we sell them and give people a place to play. I was reading on a forum earlier and some industry people were saying if you don’t buy from the store you’re not helping them; but if you’re a good person, and nice, I don’t care if you’re buying something or not. You’re making a good experience for people who are buying something. If you’re friendly or nice, you’re welcome. That’s what we care about.”
One of the best parts of owning a store is that Lincoln relishes in the time he gets to spend playing games. “I pretty much only have time for gaming. I do board game nights, play a little bit of Magic. I kinda often find myself being the person who plays whatever the newest thing is, to get people excited about it and give them someone to play with.” Games, obviously have changed his life. “I had no intention of owning a game store, and it happened, and board games are a big part of that and that’s awesome. I’ve met a lot of good friends from having the store, that’s pretty cool.”
You can check out Rook’s Comics and Games website for more about the store, and their ITTD events. As Lincoln says about his store’s celebration: “We’ll be open until 2 or 4 in the morning. We might give away a few games. That’s pretty fun: opening a demo game, getting people to play it, and then giving it away.” If you’re in Bozeman, you’ll definitely want to join in on the fun.
Has an FLGS introduced you to a new beloved game? Let us know in the comments!
Image credits: Rook’s Comics and Games