If it weren’t for a small, unassuming ‘friendly local gaming store’ ten minutes down the road from where I grew up, I think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Enchantments was everything an FLGS should be. The owner was unfailingly kind, the type of person who genuinely enjoyed her job; the employees were amiable, ready to drop whatever they were doing and geek out at a moment’s notice; and my fellow patrons of this purple-fronted paradise always made me feel at home. When I passed through the door, I entered a land of mythic wonder and magical possibilities. I learned of wars fought on tabletop, battles decided by capricious dice, and collectible empires mercilessly crushed under Lady Luck’s vicious stilettos.
As the store grew, it consumed the space next door. The owner brought in monstrous tables where gamers could play, and towering shelves swelling with books. Never had I seen so many of my favorite authors in one location. I found myself biking into town whenever I had the chance (with trading cards or cash stashed carefully in one sneaker), either to burn my money, or (more likely) window shop.
The owner was always happy to see me (as indeed she was with every bright-eyed kid who entered). I thought she had the best job in the world. And it sparked my own dream of one day opening a store for gamers and fantasy lovers.
In 1995, TSR, Inc. (remember them?) released a game called Dragon Dice. As soon as it came out, I knew I had to own it, in the way only an eleven year-old can. I saved my allowance for weeks, and when I had enough, I slogged down the road through the first slushy snow of the season. It was Saturday morning, and the store was still closed.
The owner arrived presently, greeted me with a smile and allowed me to stumble into the warmth while she opened. Imagine my horror when I proudly presented her a handful of soggy bills (carefully retrieved from my sneaker), only to discover I didn’t have enough. I’d been looking at the booster pack price. The starter pack was five dollars more. Seeing my trembling lip, she took pity: if I shoveled her walk, she’d sell me the starter pack for the lower price. I gratefully accepted, and fifteen minutes later, I held Dragon Dice in my cold little hands.
She assured me that when I came of age, she’d give me a job (though she was probably just being charitable). I wonder how my life might have changed if I’d spent my summers working at Enchantments, instead of filthy pharmacies and soulless corporate music stores.
In the years that followed that fateful day, I spent many hours within Enchantments’ welcoming walls. I played in my first sealed deck tournament (Decipher’s Star Wars CCG); I learned that Warhammer 40,000 is a money siphon; I went to a Dungeons & Dragons camp staffed by the Enchantments employees (yes, I am that nerdy); and I discovered a world in which I desperately wished to remain for the rest of my life.
Alas, all good things must surely come to an end. The owner returned to school, and my beloved Enchantments closed forever. Yet my dream of owning a store for gamers remained.
The spark of that dream never quite burned out. A while back, my wife and I started an online storefront selling Fantasy Flight Games products (though it soon became abundantly clear that we were in way over our heads). But sometimes you just have to roll the dice and see what happens. The realization of a childhood dream, no matter the size, should never be maligned.
For those interested, Dragon Dice is still alive and kicking here.