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Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
9/7/18 10:11 p.m.

I'm working at my friend's tire shop right now and it's killing me, physically and mentally. I'm tired of working harder so my boss can have a nicer vacation. I have a plan and I need some advice. I'm basically thought vomiting my ideas down and I need help putting them into focus and attending to details.

I want to open a hobby and gaming store. The business model is for an upscale, sophisticated place with plenty of room for playing games where we serve beer and kombucha on tap. The drinks/snacks sales are one revenue stream, the actual hobby and gaming products are another, and acting as a base for my eBay store will be my third. I want to run it as an LLC since I want employees, and I'm going to be based in Kelso, WA. There's a vacancy in a fancy strip mall next door to a Starbucks sandwiched between Interstate 5 and Kelso High School that would be my ideal spot. I want to host gaming leagues on weekday nights to get crowds of regulars in and host tournaments and events on the weekends. 

Products: Fantasy Flight Games' most popular lines (X-Wing Miniatures, Destiny, KeyForge, Axis & Allies, assorted board games), Upper Deck cards (Versus gaming system, some sports cards), Mattel collector line (the hobby-store only Hot Wheels), Round 2 products (AMT and MPC models, Johnny Lightning die cast, Auto World slot cars), and various accessories (dice cubes, card sleeves, card boxes). I want something for everyone but too much of it. There's 70 places to buy Magic and they are all overrun with product. Maybe bring in some Games Workshop if I can swing it? The idea is to have like 1-2 each of the products, not shelves and shelves of the same thing like most places. We would of course order in anything a customer wants, pre-paid. I would buy into the launch parties on the big products.

Snacks/beverages: Beer on tap (get with a local brewery/vendor for rotating, figure like 3 taps for beer: IPA, Lager, Porter/Stout and 1 for Kombucha) and do pops, waters, and energy drinks. Light snack foods that don't leave greasy fingerprints on gaming surfaces (hard candy, red vines, fig bars, jerky). No need for coffee since Starbucks is right there, and same with serious food since there's like 4 fast food restaurants and a Panera all right there, and no I would not allow food in, they can eat then come in. When we do tournaments I'll have the store order pizza or sandwiches as part of the entry fee to keep people happy.

Other stuff: I'd run my eBay store out of the back and take in commissions on the front as another revenue stream. No other used trade-ins, I don't want to be a singles dealer. Also host corporate events, birthday/bachelor/bachelorette parties, and special gaming events. I would buy into the bigger events that are offered by companies (like FFG's new championships for Destiny and X-Wing) that not all stores would consider and really concentrate and building a social media following for my events.

So, um, questions. My first business was a Sole Proprietorship and it's been 8 years since I graduated business school, what do I need to know about LLC's? Employees? What kind of hours should I look at, I was thinking Wed-Fri 2PM-11PM, Sat 10AM-11PM, Sun 11AM-8PM? Do I have enough revenue to make it a profitable concern? Would you play there if it was within 15 miles of your house?

Mndsm
Mndsm MegaDork
9/7/18 10:15 p.m.

Scout the local comics shops

 

 

Poach d&d games or create your own. 

 

 

Nerds are some of the best, and worst people to hire. 

 

 

PM hours work well. 

 

 

Have tournaments. 

 

 

Gaming stores by me are always full of card tables of kids and adults doing tabletop stuff, mtg, pokemon, whatever. Consider stashing an arcade cab or 7 in there for adults that bring their kids and dont know what this dragons and caves game is about. Collectibles are a big market too, funko pop especially. One guy I knew with a VERY successful gaming store was half tabletop, half retro video, comics up front, full tournament lounge, and even some modern pinball. He was working on a liquor license when I left mn. Place called gods and monsters here in Orlando has one. Its quite nice. 

nutherjrfan
nutherjrfan SuperDork
9/7/18 10:45 p.m.

At a guess the empty spot beside the Starbucks is due to the landlord waiting for Starbucks level rent. Commercial landlords suck. Can't tell you how many long time empty store fronts with a Greek name I see. They either want 25 years or big money. But hey it's their property and I do respect property.indecision

Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro PowerDork
9/7/18 11:37 p.m.

I said it in another thread...

Don't make your hobby your business.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE what I do but there is no fun car in my garage. I drive a boring, silver Tacoma to work every day to turn wrenches on cool E36 M3 that belongs to someone else.

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
9/8/18 12:46 a.m.

In reply to Mndsm :

Holy frick, how did I forget about the silver ball?!? My own grandpa runs an amusement business! I will totally think about adding a pinball in there! He does the OG Pac-Man table games, too. On the local shops, we have four. The comic shop is run by a guy that literally everyone only knows as "Dickhead", he's rude and never open and only sells comics and MTG. There's an escape room place in the run down mall that sells a few things but concentrates on MTG and a little Warhammer and other mini gaming, but they close super early. There's the shop I go to that's an absolute disaster and will be shut down by Revenue soon for unpaid taxes. Finally there's a nice board game and 40K shop that does a lot of D&D and roleplay and has a good vibe but is way too dang small and not crowd friendly. None of them serve drinks. I will not hire a nerd, I will hire a good customer service person. We don't want to be gaming experts, we just want to provide the atmosphere gamers are looking for. Thanks for the tips!

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
9/8/18 12:48 a.m.
nutherjrfan said:

At a guess the empty spot beside the Starbucks is due to the landlord waiting for Starbucks level rent. Commercial landlords suck. Can't tell you how many long time empty store fronts with a Greek name I see. They either want 25 years or big money. But hey it's their property and I do respect property.indecision

Yeah, I'm not married to that spot. It's been vacant like 3+ years, had a Froyo place in there that went belly-up. There's tons of cheap space in the mall that's hurting bad, and some spaces in some strip malls, and some great spaces in the downtown. I have options.

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
9/8/18 12:50 a.m.
Trans_Maro said:

I said it in another thread...

Don't make your hobby your business.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE what I do but there is no fun car in my garage. I drive a boring, silver Tacoma to work every day to turn wrenches on cool E36 M3 that belongs to someone else.

Racing and cars are my hobby, which is why I hate putting mud terrains on mall crawlers all day right now. I am a gamer, but a really casual one. I know enough to know a good store but I am far from "Comic Book Guy" levels of weird. I'd rather loathe playing Axis & Allies once a year than loathe looking at my car every day.

frenchyd
frenchyd SuperDork
9/8/18 2:41 a.m.

In reply to Javelin : I tried running my own business. I had the knowledge, the equipment,  the Capitol and the desire. 

Three times. 

Each time I worked two to three times harder/ longer hours than I ever worked for anyone else. 

In the end my Capitol was gone and I was exhausted.  So I went to work for others and made more money than I ever did working for myself. 

Do your research, most business fail and those that are a success were lucky and worked insanely hard to keep that luck going. 

Success rarely comes on the first try,  often several attempts are required and sometimes they never succeed.  

Then if you do succeed and want to retire make sure you figure out how you will retire. One common trick is to not pay yourself and just take cash out as needed. Easy enough to hide in the books. 

But no income? No social security, no retirement programs. No legal ways to invest for retirement. 

Don’t count on selling a successfully run business for enough to retire on. Most businesses depend on the proprietor to be profitable. Remove him and all you have is inventory and real estate.  Rare that a bank will lend to a buyer on reputation or history.

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
9/8/18 5:35 a.m.

In reply to Javelin :

In rural E36 M3berkeley IL there’s a place called Vintage Villains. It’s in an old downtown Sears building: One half is filled with card/board game stuff, new/vintage action figures & toys, some horror & sci-fi toys & memorabilia. The other half has vintage arcade games with a stage at one end & they serve bottled beer during shows(mostly metal & punk). Upstairs is a gaming area & they’d have people hanging out all the time, plus tournaments periodically.

I can send you links to their FB pages if you want to check it out. They’ve been open for several years & still seem to be going strong. 

STM317
STM317 SuperDork
9/8/18 6:59 a.m.

What (if any) kind of license or permitting is required to serve snacks and have beer on tap? What does that cost, and how easy is it to obtain that paperwork? I'd be concerned that it might be more cost/hassle than it's worth by the time you buy things like dishes/glasses, kegerators, taps, dishwasher, etc and you have to deal with health department inspections and regulatory things that you could otherwise avoid.

Your location is critical for profitability as well as the survival of the business. You need your rents to be as low as possible. Especially when just starting out. But if you're going after higher end clientele you can't setup shop in a rundown area.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
9/8/18 7:19 a.m.

I managed a comic book and gaming store before getting into the white collar world (engineering).  As a manager, I barely made above minimum wage at the time.

I am in a fairly densely populated area and the store barely lived (until it didn't after a few moves). And that was being part of a small chain that could get better discounts from distributors due to order size.  You mention a number of other stores already in the region.  Any new store opening might generate some new customers, but will likely draw from those existing stores.  With difficulty. One thing I remember about comic/gaming nerds is they are creatures of habit and tend not to like change.

Plan on pretty much being the only employee until you can generate a steady customer base and income.  Probably around 70 hrs/week. Or more.  If you do this, you may as well put the car hobby (and pretty much everything else) on hold for a few years.  If you have young kids, I'd seriously reconsider this idea.

Does WA have liquor licenses?  Food and drink requirements? The beer idea would never fly here in PA.  I'm not even sure the drinks and snacks would be allowed. State business regs can vary a lot.

This is an idea I've also had. There's a small shopping center within walking distance.  Rent isn't too bad. About $1600-$2000/mo.  I still know the guys I used to work with and could probably get in with their ordering.  But even then, I'd give it maybe a 50% chance of working and I don't know if I want to risk what little savings I have on the idea.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
9/8/18 7:43 a.m.

I'll focus on this sentance...

There's a vacancy in a fancy strip mall next door to a Starbucks sandwiched between Interstate 5 and Kelso High School that would be my ideal spot. 

 

What "exclusivities" does Starbucks have in it's lease.  As you can imagine they have it written that they are to be the only one in the strip mall that offers coffee but it may be more far reaching than that.  They could be the exclusive offerer of any food.  They might have the exclusive on offering public wifi.

 

Liquor laws and liquor permits vary by state.  Is it possible that you are too close to the High School (and its minor population) to be allowed to serve?  If not, just also realize the risk of perhaps a  youthful clientele and offering alcohol.  

minivan_racer
minivan_racer UberDork
9/8/18 7:46 a.m.

I don't have anything to add other than (from just researching LLCs and the like for myself) make sure before you form the business entity you are taking the right road when it comes to taxes, specially since you will need employees.  

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
9/8/18 7:54 a.m.

It is always a good idea to open your own business to have less stress and more free time.

HahahahahahahahahahHahahahahahahahahahHHH...

93gsxturbo
93gsxturbo SuperDork
9/8/18 8:37 a.m.

There are some  - for lack of a better term - nerd bars that have opened up here in Milwaukee recently and they are doing well.  42 Ale House.  They have two locations, one downtown near the universities and one on the south side, right between the blue collar burbs and hipster central, so its a good place to be.  They don't sell stuff other than bar fare, but they do offer a gathering place, tournaments, etc.  Meanwhile most of the hobby shops in town have closed up.

Seems that the gathering place model is much more successful than the hobby shop model in this day and age of Amazon Prime and Ebay.

Do you want to run a bar or lose money?

Crxpilot
Crxpilot Reader
9/8/18 8:49 a.m.

http://www.madhattershouseofgames.com/ This one in Lubbock, TX is doing very well.  I would call every similar business you can find and pick everybody's brains.  

Mndsm
Mndsm MegaDork
9/8/18 1:54 p.m.
Javelin said:

In reply to Mndsm :

Holy frick, how did I forget about the silver ball?!? My own grandpa runs an amusement business! I will totally think about adding a pinball in there! He does the OG Pac-Man table games, too. On the local shops, we have four. The comic shop is run by a guy that literally everyone only knows as "Dickhead", he's rude and never open and only sells comics and MTG. There's an escape room place in the run down mall that sells a few things but concentrates on MTG and a little Warhammer and other mini gaming, but they close super early. There's the shop I go to that's an absolute disaster and will be shut down by Revenue soon for unpaid taxes. Finally there's a nice board game and 40K shop that does a lot of D&D and roleplay and has a good vibe but is way too dang small and not crowd friendly. None of them serve drinks. I will not hire a nerd, I will hire a good customer service person. We don't want to be gaming experts, we just want to provide the atmosphere gamers are looking for. Thanks for the tips!

Any time. My kid went to preschool with the kid of a guy that ran what I'd consider the best shop on your path in the state of mn- place called level up games in inver grove heights. Tony. Super cool E36 M3, super nice guy. 

 

If your grandfather has active route tables, get a decent selection and rotate them. Pinball people will find you. They're even weirder than d&d nerds, but good lord do they have $$$. 

Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro PowerDork
9/8/18 2:07 p.m.
Streetwiseguy said:

It is always a good idea to open your own business to have less stress and more free time.

HahahahahahahahahahHahahahahahahahahahHHH...

Grass is greener...

 

Mndsm
Mndsm MegaDork
9/8/18 2:08 p.m.
Trans_Maro said:
Streetwiseguy said:

It is always a good idea to open your own business to have less stress and more free time.

HahahahahahahahahahHahahahahahahahahahHHH...

Grass is greener...

 

I'd rather be broke and tired and have it be my own fault. 

NOHOME
NOHOME UltimaDork
9/8/18 2:15 p.m.

As much as I have an entrepreneurial streak and have survived a couple of start-ups, I am not an advocate for most people doing so.

 

Firs thing you need to do is decide if you are doing a lifestyle or growth business model? Big difference. I would say you are looking at a lifestyle company; something that will sustain the bills and be highly flexible but no planned growth projections.

Then you need to go ask your bride how she is going to react to losing the house if it all goes wrong ( does 4/5 times)

You should know going in that no matter what the business does, you wont be doing that: 9/10ths of your time will be spent dealing with customers, suppliers and regulatory for no pay. You actually have to hire people to do the work.

If you are in front of me asking for financing, I want to know how you plan to work ON your business, NOT how you are going to work IN your business. If you miss the difference, I would be hesitant to invest.

Failure in a past enterprise could well land as a positive in my view; I know that you know stuff at that point. 

I don't see where you have a lot to lose from where you are. You are in a dead end job in a booming economy so if this does not work, just get another job and use the entrepreneurial gig as part of your improved resume. 

 

Pete

ProDarwin
ProDarwin PowerDork
9/8/18 2:26 p.m.

I'm highly skeptical of this working, but I wish you the best of luck.

If you do open a place, please please please do some old video game stuff.  Not just golden age arcade cabinets, but old pc stuff as well.  I feel like the more you can reconfigure your space, the more different things you can support, the wider you can cast your net for nerds. 

*most* of the places I have seen have been too specialized, which is unfortunate.

Also, most dont serve food.  Beer is actually not so bad from what I understand.  I recall taking to a brewerey owner and he said something along the lines of "If I served beer in plastic cups instead of glasses, the FDA wouldn't even be involved".  Many of the breweries in town do not serve food, but they arrange for food trucks to stop by outside on the busy nights.  I think its actually a great match.  Food is always different.

 

kazoospec
kazoospec UltraDork
9/8/18 2:36 p.m.

I had a friend who ran a hobby shop for 20 years.  In the end, he was only able to make it profitable by opening a corresponding Ebay store.  The brick and mortar location was so he'd have a place to go 50 hours a week and a pick up/drop location for shipping.  (Disclaimer: I was probably guilty of this sometimes myself --->)  His gripe with the brick and mortar was lots of people stopped by to hang out, say "hi" and window shop, but not a lot of sales came out of the retail location.  Again, online paid the bills.  Over the years, he got to where he really seemed unhappy.  (He told me numerous times "Never mix your business and your hobby.  You'll end up with neither a business or a hobby.")  He eventually sold the shop to a guy who didn't want to do the online stuff.  He was out of business within a year.  No matter how much you work, whether you make it or not depends on whether people come through the door and spend money.  It's not entirely within your control.  

Around here, if you want to work for yourself and make money, the trades are where it's at.  At least then, if you're working big hours, you should be making big money.  Also, right now, my HVAC guy makes more than I do with a law degree.   

Duke
Duke MegaDork
9/8/18 3:40 p.m.

I live in a small college town of maybe 10,000-15,000 people.  There is a gaming store here called The Days Of Knights, which has been in business for at least 30 years (if not longer) in several different locations - all of which were along Main Street and within walking distance of the campus.  I think location, location, location, is more important than the fine details of your business model.  You need to be a convenient place for the appropriate crowd to hang out.

Here is their website so you can check them out:  www.daysofknights.com

Good luck!

Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro PowerDork
9/8/18 4:00 p.m.

Serious question here, from someone on the outside.

Do your potential customers actually have any disposable income?

I dabbled with getting back into gaming about 15 years ago, I stopped when I got out of highschool. The some of the folks I knew when I was a teenager were still playing, still hanging out in the same place, still flat broke, working a crappy job and living with their parents.

You don't want a customer who hangs around your store all day but only buys a can of pop and a slice of pizza.

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
9/8/18 10:16 p.m.

I have a Bachelor's in Business from Washington State University with a Minor in Accounting. I ran a successful online Sole Proprietorship for 3+ years that got to where I needed to fish or cut bait and sold it to a guy in Connecticut who ran it for awhile. I am currently retired from the military (so I have enough income to pay the mortgage and have health care) and going to school online full time for my Master's in Counseling (because having my own private practice where I charge $$$/hr to insurance companies as a LMHC is the real goal but I have 2 years left). I work 25 hours/week at the tire shop and it's just making me realize how much I hate working hard so somebody else can reap the rewards. I am also going through a divorce and am about to have a lot of free time on my hands, especially in the evenings. I am not afraid of the work or commitment it takes to run the business, and yes I am just looking for a hobby/lifestyle business to sustain just me. I do not need investing as I have a cash nest egg to use for start-up.

Thank you all for the sound advice, I am researching my answers and will get back to you!

 

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