Monday, October 24, 2011

In Which The Warlock Surmises on Shopping...

Something strange, friends and neighbors.  After all these years, it becomes painfully apparent to me that for a blog meant to discuss the Dayton area gaming scene, I've never really spoken much about the friendly local game stores in the area. 

Well, after the Guild's monthly trip to one of our FLGSes, I think that it's high time to change that!

The Mainstay:  Bookery Fantasy (Fairborn, OH)

Bookery Fantasy--Comics side!
This is the big one--my personal favorite, and my store of choice.  This is where I have my comic file, this is where I get the majority of my gaming supplies, and this is my "home store". 

Bookery boasts over a 25 year history in games and comics, dating all the way back to a little video rental shack, which is still owned and operated right next door.  With over 16,000 square feet of combined space, spanning 4 storefronts, Bookery claims to be the largest comics/gaming store in the United States and I don't doubt them for a second.  And, as you might imagine, a store doesn't get that big or last that long as an accident.  Their continual discounts--10% on any new gaming material or trade paperback--and their friendly staff put forward a good business model that keeps people coming back.  Plus, Bookery keeps a massive "warehouse" of used comics and graphic novels alongside their games section, where some real treasures can be had!  On a whim, I had picked up a pretty rare one-shot--Doctor Strange/Doctor Doom:  Triumph and Torment--only to find out that I actually had grabbed a copy autographed by Mike Mignola himself!  For only $5!  Woot!

Bookery Fantasy--Games side!
Bookery has always been one of the greater supporters of the Guild and of WittCon, as well, even though they don't have a convention prescence themselves (which is a damned shame, if you ask me!).  They've provided donations for our costume contest and free advertisement for at least the last 5 years, probably longer. 

What's more, Bookery Fantasy is nestled in the "Historic Osborn" section of Fairborn--a historic district located just off of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  The whole strip there is very walkable, particularly around Halloween, when the Foy's Halloween Stores are in full-swing and the entire street is decorated with ghouls, skeletons, and even a massive 9' tall spear-wielding skeletal ogre!  Do yourself a favor and head there sometime soon; you won't be disappointed!

The New Hotness:  Epic Loot (Centerville, OH)

Epic Loot's Logo
Out of all of the stores I'll be mentioning, Epic Loot is by far the newest.  Just off of Route 48, Epic Loot is located in a strip-mall, but don't let that shy you away--these guys know what they're doing. 

The Guild's most recent game-store run came here, and I was eager to go, primarily because I'd only been to Epic Loot once before.  While open since July, Epic Loot's managed to fill their store with material, present it attractively, and attract a huge base of regular players--their spacious gaming area is usually pretty hopping!  On a Saturday afternoon, they had a few tables open, but not many--even as we wandered through, a Magic: the Gathering tournament was in full swing, and several other tables were taken up by board-gamers.

Epic Loot just implemented a pretty novel reward system, based on etched dice with their logo, and offers regular discounts on certain items.  Also, they have a neat system that I haven't seen elsewhere--a locker/storage system!  For the low price of $15 a month, you can rent a locker in their gaming room--the room itself used to be a firing range for a sporting good store--and leave your games there in complete security.  Pretty spiffy!

I see some really good things in Epic Loot's future.  They have a great location, a friendly and helpful staff, and a good amount of saleable product.  Check them out, if you're south of the city!

The Con-Goers:  Superfly Comics and Games (Yellow Springs, OH) and Bell Book and Comics (Dayton, OH)

I'm lumping these two together, as they're both regulars on the convention circuit and are both fairly similar, even though their locations are pretty disparate. 

Superfly Comics & Games
Superfly is somewhat newer, getting their start in 2007 as the offshoot of Yellow Springs mainstay bookstore Dark Star.  With a youthful, energetic staff, Superfly's put forward quite the showing, particularly at larger conventions throughout the Miami Valley and even beyond.  Superfly's been at Origins for at least the last 2 years, and we were even shocked to see them two years ago all the way at C2E2 in Chicago!  They're eager to get their name out there--even Gail Simone is a fan, calling them in the midst of their 4th anniversary celebration/DC reboot party. 

Bell, Book and Comic
Bell Book and Comic has been around somewhat longer--in their current location since 2003--and also makes their rounds at the convention circuit, though on a somewhat smaller scale.  BB&C's been focusing on the smaller conventions--FOPCon, Gem City Comic Con and the like--while Superfly's been trying on the bigger scenes. 

What's also notable about both of these is their utter lack of space.  Bell Book is crammed into a tiny, narrow storefront, making it difficult to navigate through without running into other browsing customers.  While they have significant space for gaming, it's in a back room that's...well, dank, at best.  Superfly doesn't even have that much room--only two tables that would, if full, be a massive pain for anyone to actually move around.  While no game store can have everything--well, Bookery and Epic Loot seem to be pretty close!--this is a pretty dire need, if you want to keep people in your store for longer periods of time.

The Rest--Krystal Keep (Kettering, OH) and Main Street Comics and Games (Springfield, OH)

I'll be honest, though.  Not all of the game stores in the region are of the premier variety.  These two, unfortunately, have some pretty glaring flaws. 

Krystal Keep Games & Hobbies
Krystal Keep rose out of the ashes of the former Wexford Hills Hobbies, taking over its remaining stock and former location, albeit with some pretty sizable renovations.  Krystal Keep, unlike Bell Book or Superfly, has ample gaming space--they even bought up several restaurant booths for gamers to use for board-games, freeing up space for their numerous minis tournaments.  But, what Krystal Keep makes up for in space, they lack in stock.  While previously boasting a huge selection of miniatures from all sorts of games, Krystal Keep has near-empty shelves and little to actually be sold.
The staff has countered this with the perennial offer of "We can order it for you!" but that's little consolation. I patronize a FLGS for the sake of patronizing a local business. If I wanted to order a product and wait for it, I'd do it myself through Amazon or the like, getting a substantial discount in the meanwhile.

Main Street Comics and Games
(Former location)
This problem is even worse at Main Street Comics and Games. The sponsor of Champion City ComicCon, Main Street's original store was a cramped, tiny alley, unfit for a business that needs a fair amount of space. Their new location, while better, has almost nothing in the way of basic store necessities: shelves, tables, and displays. Stock is strewn about the room, with boxes of comics sitting on the floor, and a pitiful bookshelf half-filled with graphic novels. The majority of the store is simply empty space, with no purpose or designation. There are no customer incentives or scheduled games, and the store has the feeling of being run by someone more concerned with saying "I run a comics and game shop" than actually running said business.

Both of these stores are suffering major flaws that need to be overcome, if they want to be sustainable as businesses. In-store events, customer promotions, and good advertising all go a long way towards establishing a regular customer base, willing to spend money on what are, essentially, luxury goods. In a recession/depression, convincing people to part ways with their money for a book, a box of miniatures, or a pack of cards is pretty difficult. But not even offering those items, much less at a discount or as part of an ongoing in-store game, makes for bad tidings. Don't get me wrong--I don't want either of these two stores to fail. The more game and comic stores in the area, the better! But, if they want my business, they need to bring something to the table.

The Unknowns: Heroes 4 Sale (Vandalia, OH) and Another Fearless Readers (Englewood, OH)

These two, ironically in my own backyard, are the two I know least about. I've never been to either, though I've heard good things about Heroes 4 Sale from a friend of mine (then again, that friend loved the Green Lantern movie, and thinks the DC reboot is genius, so I take his recommendation with a mound of salt).

I'll be eager to see what these two have in store, considering their proximity. With any luck, I might just have some new places to browse the stacks...


  1. I was in Dayton for a short time in the early 1990s, and I have fond memories of Bookery. Sounds like they got even better!

    I used to go to The Dragon's Lair downtown, and The Keep and The Tin Soldier to the south. From what I can find out, none of those still exist.

  2. Bookery's literally doubled in size since I started going there in the mid-2000s. It's pretty phenomenal.

    I didn't make it to any of the other stores you mentioned, and they're not familiar to me. I don't think they're around any more, alas.