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Opening the Outcast

As with all my businesses, I read voraciously about trends, advice, and best practices.  When looking for insight into running a game store, I keep going back to Black Diamond Games excellent blog.  I was pointed there by this post at Board Game Geek, which also happens to be the number one Google hit for ‘how to open a game store’.  After a week of reading, it sounds pretty bleak for the industry.  If I were a betting man, and I told myself my business plan (which mainly exists in my brain), I would say that Outcast Games and Hobbies had about a 5% chance of survival past 24 months.  Knowing that, what the heck am I doing trying to create a business in what might be the most ridiculously under-margined industry?

Some might call what I am doing a vanity project; however, I reject that notion. Because while financial success is not the number 1 priority (as I have another business that pays the bills), it is A priority.  I don’t go into business to lose money, even if what I am doing is more for personal fulfillment than it is for the typical definition of ‘success’.

Still, for folks who might be interested in the potential longevity of their town’s game store, I thought I’d lay out what I will, and won’t, be doing, and the goals for the store.

Goals:

  1. My main priority is to make a place for folks to play games.  To that end, even if the business doesn’t fly, we will still have a great place to play games.  I plan on living the remainder of my life and retiring in Lewisburg (I’m 46), so I’m not going anywhere.  My warehouse (current or future) will be where I home school my girls, run my businesses, and offer sanctuary to all who seek it.
  2. I don’t plan to cater to any specific kinds of games.  I’m just as open to a Geriatric Bridge Game or Church Cribbage League as I am to a Blood Rage tourney.  Over time, I am willing to invest in enough hardware to host a Hearthstone Fireside Gathering as well as multiple tables worth of terrain for Warmachines.  Need 32 Chess sets for a regional event?  We’ll do that.  Outcast is my Ministry, and that means I want to support what the community is looking for with thought and generosity.
  3. While I’d be very glad for a bunch of young people to show up and play Magic the Gathering drafts, I think it’d be great if their parents played some games too.  No, we’re not going to start most muggles on Arkham Horror, but I’d be glad to demo Settlers or Puerto Rico for families who want to game together.
  4. Slow, organic growth.  I have no need to see the store scale rapidly.  I’d much rather gain a slow, loyal following as an active member of a thriving community.

Non-goals

  1. While Outcast is important to me, my family is more important.  The game store is not going to be a 70 hour per week job.  This is reason #1 I’m sure some experts would give as a reason we won’t thrive.  I’ve already been doing 70 hours a week for 5 years on my main business, I just don’t have it in me to do again.  See #4 goal.
  2. I’m not the DM.  For most of my life, I was the DM of every game.  As other DM’s realize, that means that I was the one putting the most time in creating campaigns, NPC’s, maps, etc.  Again, that’s something I just don’t have in me anymore.  What I will do is facilitate projects the community wants to do.  If a Warhammer group wants some great terrain, I will be happy to fund some of the supplies and the table space, but I’m not learning how to build terrain.  If someone wants to run a tournament, I’ll provide the space and accommodations, but the organization and bookkeeping is all yours.

At the end of it all, if Outcast becomes a place a dozen friends ends up gathering twice a week to run some games, I will be content.

Now that I’ve downplayed any expectations, I do have some plans for ways to make our store cooler than others many times larger.  Looking forward to discussing some of those soon!

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