In today’s FLGs feature we travel up to Calgary, Canada to visit The Sentry Box!
What was the catalyst for opening a games store?
Since it was almost 39 years ago for the store, it is a little hard to remember. I know that the desire to get cheap games for myself was part of goal for the wholesale business and the store just became another way to connect with customers. I am also a numbers guy with a bent for business so I knew it would work. Back then, it was really just wargames, some miniatures, and early RPGs that were available to sell. There were no family games at all so 450 sq.ft. seemed like it would do. Even then, the cost was about $20,000 to set up with most of the incoming cash going right back into new inventory.
How do you promote inclusivity at your store?
Perhaps it is a Canadian thing or the way I was raised but just being polite and friendly to customers was the only thing I really did for the first three locations. When we moved and bought our current building 24 years ago and rebuilt it from scratch, I wanted to add a mezzanine for gamers to hang out and play. I felt it was important that it would be open to the store but on a different level for security reasons. It was 3000 sq.ft. so was something new for the industry at the time. About 1000 sq.ft. was set up a back area with it’s own washroom and exit so clubs and gamers could play after hours.
A no politics or religion rule also helped keep people focussed on enjoying themselves rather than arguing about personal beliefs that had nothing to do with gaming. When hiring, the fact that you were competent and enjoyed the hobby were far more important than anything.
We have had a ladies Magic night and have started a women’s boardgame night but these have been done more just to see if they are something people want as an option. It was about giving them an option. We actually have more women showing up at our regular boardgame nights.
Why do you think FLGSs are important?
If it wasn’t for local stores, the hobby wouldn’t have grown like it has over the years. Nobody meets to play via Amazon or an on-line discounter for example. You need either staff recommendations or that view of people playing different games and enjoying them to see what is possible. Meeting people in a store also gives you the option to find opponents for the types of games you like. I don’t think that games would be in the general consciousness today if it wasn’t for the work of a lot of FLGS’s. Think of all the years where our choices were only mindless games, Monopoly or Risk for example. It wasn’t until small stores started selling wargames and D&D that the hobby started to grow. Miniatures were there too but weren’t very good at the time. Magic came along, kickstarted a new genre and then Eurogames with their subsequent sub-genres. D&D is back again and is selling better than ever, bringing new people into the hobby and then they see all the other options to try.
What’s the most important thing you want gamers to get out of your FLGS?
That there is a community of like minded people here that is generally very welcoming if you are new to the hobby or area. We all love games and want to share that love with you. I still play games two or three times a week myself and cannot imagine changing that in the future. When I bought the current building 24 years ago, my plan was to retire at 65 and sell it to fund retirement. I have been told by customers that I am no longer allowed to retire or die as they have no idea what would happen to the store if I did. As such, I decided to change the plans and start slowly handing ownership over to some staff to keep things going. If customers can be loyal to me, I figure it should work both ways. The Sentry Box is definitely the “third place” for many of them and this is one of the biggest wins for me over the years.