Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Requiem for a Game Store

Two weeks ago, we had the Game Night Anniversary Potluck. It was the last Game Night held at Phoenix.

This is a post that has been very hard for me to write. I've started and re-started several times, now. I've given up on editing it, so this is going to be a poorly-edited splat, and it'll probably run long.  You Have Been Warned.

The first experience I had with Phoenix was when I was stepping into a Waldenbooks.  Across the way, there was this bright yellow store - but it contained games.

I went in, bought some D&D stuff, chatted with the staff for a few, and headed out.

I had no idea at the time that Phoenix was going to be my game store of choice for more than a decade.

No idea at all.

Brian was a fantastic store owner. He didn't ignore the business end, but he clearly had a passion for games. And, further, he worked hard to make sure that the store was clean and organized - down to pushing the chairs back in and straightening tables at the end of the night.

Brian worked hard to make sure the store was a safe place - and that no-one was excluded. When it looked like cliques were starting to form at Game Night, he (subtly) broke them up and mixed the folk up again.

The shop was both kid-friendly and kid-safe, and Brian was not shy about asking troublemakers to leave. Usually just for the night, but sometimes for longer.

We weren't customers at Phoenix - we were family.  All of us.

Brian closed the store to move to California to be with his wife. None of us blame him (or her) for this. We all knew it was eventually coming.

I'm pretty sure everyone who was a regular at the store has at least a few Brian Stories.  Here are a few of mine:

Within the first year or so of his being open, I was briefly unemployed. Brian hired me to run the shop for a few weekends here and there so he could go to weddings and the like.

That Christmas, he handed me four sealed envelopes. "Choose two," he told me. And he shredded the other two right in front of me. "You are not allowed to open these until you're going to use them," he said.  I don't know what was in the two destroyed envelopes, but one of them was a 30% discount. The other was a 100% discount.

He hosted my bachelor party. As bachelor parties go, it was ridiculously tame - but he didn't know that going into it (although given how tame I am, he probably suspected as much).

The last game I bought at Phoenix was Quadropolis. The last game I played at Phoenix was Black Fleet.

I met Stephan Brissaud (now with Iello, then with both Days of Wonder and Asmodee) through Brian, and that led to my Demo Team work with Asmodee that lasted for a decade.

So some of the best memories (and best friends) that I have either happened at Phoenix or because of Phoenix.

Thank you, Brian, for a dozen of the best years of my life.

I hope your future endeavors are as successful. You've set a high bar for yourself (and for the other local game stores) to meet.

Thank you.

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