Sunday, January 3, 2016

(Review) Evolution Games, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

For the third time in two years, I have "new" FLGS.  I discovered Emerald Vale Games by chance when I spied a flyer during Free Comic Book Day at the local shop.  It was a brand new shop with growing inventory, focusing their sales directly towards their clientele, but also willing to cater to the more peculiar consumers, like myself.

Soon space was and issue, and they moved down the road.   There was a lot more room for Magic and roleplaying, but it sacrificed standing inventory browsing space.  My purchases were relegated to snacks for the girls, some paint, and a horribly underpriced blister pack of GW dwarves.

Opening up a game store is everyone's lifelong dream, but few people think things through.  Late hours devoted to store caused some strife between the co-owners, and they split up in the middle of the year.

Emerald Vale Games has died. Long live Evolution Games.

The store has moved yet again, and again, a short distance.   7 Lee Park Avenue in Wilkes Barre is just three or four blocks away from location #2, but it's also conveniently attached to the owners deli.

Location: Of the three store locations, the first had the best potential.  Signage could be seen off of a busy
highway.  The second was around the corner and buried in the tiny strip mall.  The latest location is on a primary street in a city neighborhood.   There is plenty of on street parking and there is a small parking lot in the rear of the building.

The Store:  The last store had been selected solely for CCG special events.  This one has a much smaller CCG area, as well as separate rooms for wargaming and role playing.  Store stock is still cramped to view.  Magic singles and packs are still in cases, with a solid supply of board and card games directly across in a narrow avenue of the store.  The good news is this avenue leads to the register, which is through a window. Compared to the second location, it's much more secure.  

Clientele: The store still has a diverse selection of games being run, although it's finally obvious who are the "regulars."  Most are nice, a few lack the social skills you would expect at any game store. My biggest complaint appears to be the amount of fried food from the deli reaching game tables.  It's bad enough 
to see baskets of greasy food reaching the tables in the midst of the game, but I hope they're sweet potato fries, otherwise the deli's fryers hadn't been cleaned in weeks.

Gaming:  Role Playing includes Pathfinder, Rifts, and a variety of D&D. CCGs such as Magic, Yu Gi Oh!, and Force of Will have events.  Of course, Game Workshop events for the new games are scheduled, as well as a very active BloodBowl community.

Games Workshop The GW minimum stock orders result in some backstock behind the counter and a good deal of stock that's still sitting on the shelf, with little movement.

Inventory:  The shelves are brimming with stock, which allowed me a few options to snag up a Christmas gift for my wife's cousin.  The binders of Magic singles are gone, now only a few stagnant selections in the case.  They do process special orders, but I'm not sure who to contact outside the owner, who I haven't seen in months.  It does make Amazon look like a better option for my "secondary" mainstream gaming interests.  Truth be told, my wife spent less than 15 minutes on my Christmas gifts this year, compared to a whole lot of running around for in stock items at the store last year.   I have three or four items pre ordered through them (Osprey and Steve Jackson) and a few that should be available now, but I've heard neither text, email, or call regarding them.

The high point this all was the inclusion of  Reaper Bones.  This allowed me to allow the kids pick up something on our trip, outside of drinks and chips. Of course, I've only seen a tiny restock of the figures over the last couple of months.
Looking towards the front of the store.

Looking towards the back...

December activities
So, after a third location , what do I rate Evolution Games on my world famous Gaming with the Gnomies Five-Gnome System?

A whopping Two Gnomes.

The sense of community is there, the customer base has been developed, and there is something to do if you walk into the door. I bet you many of the regulars consider this the greatest store ever.

However, I've spent far too many years working in shops that, if we relied on our most fervent followers, we would have been out of business within a year. I'm not interested in the 200 or so people who come in regularly. I'm more worried about the 100,000 other people within a half hour drive. Specifically, the "Games Workshop Mom." Would a suburban mom with a $300 budget be willing to walk into the store, talk to a staff member, get assistance regarding in-stock items and be able to get the rest resolved through a special order?

Would she even be able to find the place? I can't even find a website with a google search, if it exists..  

Back to the GW Mom, if she finds the place (and doesn't just use the GW site), she's met by a oddly shaped store on what locals , and only two employees (the owners) who would be able to help, who aren't always there. Relying on loyal (and professional) customers for support is a crap shoot at best.

Don't believe me? I'll go back to my wife using Amazon rather that the store for Christmas.

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