Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pop's Culture Shoppe, Wellsboro, PA - One Year Later

This weekend was my 7th Wedding Anniversary.  Like last year, we drove up to Wellsboro.  Unlike last year, we kept it to a day trip and left the kiddos at home with Grandma.

Wellsboro continues to evolve into a larger and larger tourist trap with stores selling gee gaws and bric a brac to a clientele that is any combination of (a) old (b) yuppie (c) motorcycle riding and (d) lesbian.  Hey, those folks have to vacation somewhere especially during leaf season. 

Outside of a superb dinner at Timeless Destination, and a quick visit to the local Men's shop, a considerable amount of stay was a return trip to Pop's Culture Shoppe.

I reviewed Pop's last year when we came up.  It's been the only shop that I gave five out of five gnomes on a review, and it's been the gold standard to compare against the other stores.  But what's happened to Pop's over the course of the last year?  How have the Stam's changed, tinkered, and grown the store?

Let's take a look, shall we?

First off, Pop's is still there.  This is a huge plus in the game store business.  The only thing worse than operating a game store might be running a restaurant, and both have huge room for failure.  It's nice to see them succeed.

They were genuinely busy.  We walked in to Julian and Anja busy helping small packs of customers at the counter, a few bemused touristy types, and a family playing King of Tokyo in the Playroom.  We were still greeted warmly, and the once the customers were finished, Julian came over to check up on us, thank me for the nice review, and talk a little shop before the next group wandered in.  More on that as I go along.

The store is still immaculate.  Still no food was eaten off the floor, but everything was clean, with organized shelves, and a bright and airy atmosphere. Julian even mentioned needing to change a few burnt out lightsawhile back and the difference it made.  All other FLGS game stores out there, please take note of the previous sentence: basic maintenance is not hard and it's worth the relatively minor expense.  Please get on it.

The wall o' games in the Playroom

Stock has expanded.  The three core areas, CCGs, boardgames, and Heroclix are still supported and have been expanded. However the stock shelves in the Playroom are no longer a libraray of boardgames. Instead it's a varied and somewhat eclectic bunch of board games, card games, kid's retro games,and even playing cards, plus a few more racks for even more stock.   They've slowly expanded the RPG section, largely Pathfinder, with some old school D&D used books for flavor.  As they had mentioned as one of their goals from last year, their small art supply section has grown nicely, and the flow of the store has changed ever so slightly. Touristy product A leads the customer to kid friendly rack B which notices product line C in such a subtle way to encourage browsing even amongst those visitors who "don't play games," yet somehow leave the store with a purchase of some sort.  It's basic marketing at it's finest.  

They are part of the community.  While most store resign themselves to being the place where parents drop off their kids to play Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Heroclix for the day, Pop's still does that, but they've also managed to expand the horizons of a dorky-mannered game destination.  They host weekly Coffe and Cards mornings, as well as regular Mah-Jong games that has expanded to other dates upon demand.  A number of people, from middle school kids to senior citizens are sitting down, socializing, and playing games where they would rarely interact in public.  This is a beautiful thing.

This is not the clientele you would expect at a game store, and this is a very good thing.
 They also recently re-started the Chess club after a short hiatus, worked in some of the students at nearby Mansfield University, as well as being a participating store in the First Annual Wellsboro Wine and Art Festival this year.
Even more stuff
Their in-store demos are great.  Once things completely calmed down, I convinced my wife to sit down and play King of Tokyo with Julian teaching us.   He was great at explaining the rules and not overcomplicating things, which should be a given to be a great demonstrator, but the fact that he gave my non-gaming wife equal attention when explaining everything is a HUGE plus.  We've walked out of many a car dealership, carpet store, etc because the salesman barely recognized my wife, and I explicitly stated that she was the decision maker in that scenario.   Although I would be gamer/potential purchaser at the table, treating everyone with respect seems like a no brainer for the enjoyment of all, but alas, most stores are severely lacking in that regard.  My wife enjoyed herself immensely (she also won),  even though she's never watched a giant monster movie of any kind.

She had also never heard "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince until the ride home, so she lived a sheltered life. 
King of Tokyo
Oh yeah, King of Tokyo rocks on toast!  I didn't snag a copy but I heartily recommend it.

I'm not going to go into details about their board game rentals or hosting a party there.  I don't want to screw up the details, but they also rock.  Stop in yourself and ask.  I doubt you'll be disappointed.

So, last year, I gave Pop's the coveted five out of five gnome rating.  I had a split second of hesitation in giving that until I went over the criteria and the store demographics.  A year later, I have no reservations of any sort when I recertify Pop's Culture Shoppe with a Five Out of Five Gnome Review.

2012, 2013
The Stams run a friendly, yet very professional store.  More than saying they're an excellent game store, it would not be a stretch to say they have an excellent business, and that word is rarely used with game stores. I hope my next visit is far closer than another year.

DISCLAIMER:  Realizing that we didn't bring the little ones with us this time, they threw in two small foam dice in our bag "for the kids,'  as well as an extra root beer with the purchase of a Pop's Travel Mug for my wife.  This did not influence any opinions on this post, it was not expected as a result of my previous positive review, but it did reinforce my personal opinion that the Stam's are truly sincere, awesome people.  The stores I have given poor reviews on would require a whole lot more than $2.50 MSRP for me to give them a better review, and my conscience wouldn't allow it anyway

DISCLAIMER #2 My wife was lucky she got me out of Wellsboro when she did seven years ago.  It would  require firearms pointed at my head to get me to move if I still lived there today.  

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