How One Man Gave Up a Medical Career to Open His Own Game Store

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Nearly 15 years ago Norman Herrick thought he knew how his life would unfold: apply to medical school, become a doctor, retire, and then open up a game store where he could play games all day long.

It was his passion for gaming, though, that led to him to reconsider.

“I had a big soul-searching kind of moment,” he recalled. “I came to the realization that maybe going to med school and becoming a doctor wasn’t the thing I wanted to do. I started thinking, ‘Can I just jump ahead and open up a game store and do well enough to satisfy whatever needs I had?’”

After Herrick decided to take a different career path he began research on opening his own store; not an easy task during the early 2000s.

“At that point in time there wasn’t a lot of reference online for opening up a game store,” he said.

Herrick eventually found The Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), where he learned about the industry and got involved with their mentor program. He spoke to retailers and visited stores before being mentored by Rainy Day Games in Oregon.

“I got a lot of great information from them, went to the GAMA trade show, and jumped in and opened my store,” he said, launching The Game Shoppe in Bellevue, Nebraska, in 2004. 

Long before the store’s opening Herrick was developing an interest in gaming with his friends. “I was in junior high and a group of guys and I started playing Dungeons & Dragons together. One of the guys had all of the boxed sets of D&D that belonged to his brother,” he said. “Then I was out with my mom at a bookstore and I saw that there was a player’s handbook and a dungeon master’s guide. I was like, ‘Oh my God, they have books!’”

Those books quickly changed his status within the group. “My mom bought me the player’s handbook that day and I took it back to my friends and my friends were like, ‘Wow, books?!’” he said. “I ended up taking over running the game since I was the guy that actually owned the books.”

The D&D sessions led Herrick to discover more role-playing titles as well as other tabletop games, such as Shogun and Axis & Allies, and wholeheartedly pursuing his passion.

“I was at the Gen Con [when Magic the Gathering debuted] and they were giving out the free packs so I got involved in Magic,” he said. “I’ve been swimming in the hobby ever since.” He’s still fond of D&D, but as he puts it, “[b]oard games are definitely my number one love,” he said. “Every week I get to play some board games, whether it’s at the store or just with my wife at home or with a group of friends that get together on Saturdays.”

From Ticket to Ride (“still one of my wife’s favorite games”) to Agricola (“one of my all-time favorite strategy games”), Herrick continues to hit the tabletop whenever he can, even as most of his time is spent overseeing two locations of The Game Shoppe as well as raising a two-year-old daughter with his wife. Time outside of the stores, however, is spent doing things most of us do regularly: going to the movies, eating out for dinner, or hanging out with friends. “My wife is very big into the dance community, so I spend a lot of time going to different dance recitals and I will happily get out on the dance floor and shake it with anybody,” he laughs. “But I definitely do not have the skills that my wife has.”

A naturally out-going person, Herrick sees tabletop gaming as a way to socialize for those who might not be inclined to do so. “For a lot of my friends that are introverts tabletop gaming has always been their outlet for meeting people,” he said. “You get to meet a diverse group of people that come from a wide range of backgrounds and you’re unified by your similar passion and love for gaming.

“You can learn so much about people and you get to do it while you play games.”

Would you change careers to start your own FLGS? Tell us in the comments!

The Game Shoppe is located at 1406 Harlan Drive in Bellevue, Nebraska. Visit their Facebook page here.

Image Credits: The Game Shoppe

Ruel Gaviola is a writer and educator based in Southern California. He loves board games, books, cooking, traveling, date nights with his wife, and Star Wars. He reviews games and reports news for and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter.

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