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.
Gary Ray was a D&D player who ended up buying two-thirds of his stuff online because the local game stores didn’t have what he wanted and their customer service wasn’t up to snuff. Gary also had a job he didn’t really like. Those two things taken together led to his next step: he opened his own game store, Black Diamond Games, which is now in its 14th year serving the Concord, California area.
Unsurprisingly, the first iteration of the store was filled with “All the most esoteric stuff … not at all smart, business-wise,” Gary admits. In other words, it was stocked with those special items he was forced to buy online. “I realized I was an outlier as far as customers go, and there were reasons why the other stores were what they were,” Gary continued, “It took about three years to figure it out. I really delved into the field to understand retail at an elemental level.”
Another thing Gary had to figure out was board games. Black Diamond Games has always sold them, but he didn’t always know much about them. “I was the sole person at the store at the number of years, so I learned a bunch of different games–card games, miniatures–but not board games. The first Christmas the store was open, this old woman took me to task for not knowing enough about board games. She put me in my place. After that, I started a board game night and after three years of that, I was conversant in board game. If you came in and were looking for a game, I could find a fit for you.”
Gary doesn’t get the chance to match board games to people anymore. He’s stepped back from the day-to-day sales floor and is now writing a book about running a game store which grew out of a highly detailed blog on Black Diamond Games’ website. The blog was Gary’s way to be transparent about why things are the way they are in his store. “Gamers are different from other customers–they wanted to know how the (game store) game is played. There are people who choose our store because of it, drive an extra half an hour or an hour to shop here, because of the blog.”
Black Diamond Games was also recently remodeled, adding a second-story expansion to their play area, which has also kept Gary pretty busy. “We built it because we were full every night in our 1,000 square foot space. We have an event every night, and you could only play whatever the event was because it was completely full.” A combination of crowdfunding and private investors paid for the expansion. “We had thousands of dollars being donated to the project from people I only knew from the blog. It was surprising.” And those board game nights helped, too, “Some of those people who originally stayed with me after hours to do board game night are actually investors now,” Gary reveals.
Black Diamond Games is still finalizing their plans for ITTD, but there will definitely be a lot of gaming going on in their “renewed and rebuilt” store. As Gary says, “If you haven’t been by in a while, check it out!” You can also check their website for info on all of their daily events, Gary’s blog, and more.
What make for a great gaming store? Tell us all about it in the comments.
Image credits: Black Diamond Games