As our gaming community has grown to be more diverse, many stores have similarly diversified, with staff and owners coming from a variety of backgrounds with one unifying characteristic: a passion for games. Here are a few women who own game stores and their remarkable stories.
RHONDA BECKER – THE GAMER’S DEN
Rhonda started The Gamer’s Den with her husband, Joe over 13 years ago, having met at a college gaming club. She runs the store’s day-to-day operations, involved with every aspect of the store. She talks about the challenges of running a brick-and-mortar gaming store in the modern era: “We have a fair amount of overhead to support our store and our in-store game space – explaining that without alienating someone is hard but it is very gratifying when a new customer decides the value we add to the community is worth it and supports us.”
One of the ways she does that is by creating an inclusive environment within the store. “We welcome all ages in the store and host events for a wide variety of interests and skill level. We truly strive to be a third space where people enjoy hanging out and joining a community of other gamers.” The store’s code of conduct codifies that goal. Furthermore, they go out of their way to create an environment that fosters community. “One of my favorite events was organizing a customer appreciation viewing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and getting to share that with our community. We had almost 200 people attend and enjoy being geeks together – it was a fabulous event.”
ANGIE BLACKMON – DRAGON’S LAIR
Angie literally worked her way up from an employee of a gaming store to the owner of one over the course of a few short years. Starting as a part-time clerk and becoming the store manager within two months, she an opportunity was soon presented to her to open her own franchise of the Dragon’s Lair with her brother. From the beginning though, she found her gender a challenge to overcome, with patrons who would question her knowledge on the games simply because she was a woman. She resisted, however, and as she puts it, “I can hold my own in this business and in many cases have more knowledge than some of my counterparts. I employ a number of diverse staff members and I don’t tolerate mistreatment of my staff based on their sex or any reason.”
The store itself is also remarkable, and one she describes as a home away from home, and everyone, from the customers and employees to the store’s cats help with that. “We try to make this feel like our customers clubhouse,” she explains. “We love our jobs and we love our customers who provide us that work.” That kind of customer experience is intrinsic to the Dragon’s Lair.
JENNIFER WARD – CRAZY SQUIRREL GAME STORE
Jennifer owns the Crazy Squirrel Game Store with her partner, Scott. Her story began shortly after Scott got laid off. Despite the hardship, they worked on a business plan, realized the plan, and spent a year working in the store every hour it was open. While Scott returned to his career as a civil engineer after that first year, Jennifer continued to operate, manage and grow the store, which now boasts a staff of five, and over 4000 square feet split equally between retail and in-store gaming space.
She describes what she does as a giant resource management game. “I’ve got so many hours of employee time and so many dollars: how can I best utilize them to provide a welcoming atmosphere and convince people to spend their money with us?” Beyond the day-to-day operations of the store, it’s important to her that the store gives back to the community. “The first five years we ran food drives for the Community Food Bank,” she said, while this year they supported the local Toys for Tots operations. But they also supported their own: “We’ve reached out to customers who’ve suffered losses due to break-ins and fires.” Talk about community.
Tell us about your favorite local gaming store in the comments!
Featured Image Credit: Rhonda Becker (The Gamer’s Den – Facebook)
Image Credits: Rhonda Becker (The Gamer’s Den – Facebook), Angie Blackmon (Dragon’s Lair – Facebook), Jennifer Ward (Crazy Squirrel Game Store – Facebook)