Thursday, March 10, 2016

(Review) Pastimes on the Square - Palmyra, Pennsylvania

Ah, the nostalgia of a decade ago...

Back in the early '00s, I worked for a newspaper and had crazy swinging hours and a salary position. While I could very well have a 2am-6pm day of insanity, there were many a weekday that started at 5am and by 11:30am,  I was done for the the day.  When I did have those days, I would usually grab lunch with my buddy Brian and assault the local gaming stores.  Starting in Easton, we would work our way west at the usual spots:  Dreamscape Easton/Bethlehem, The Encounter, and Cap's.  We were known to make the occasional sidetrek up to the Poconos or North Jersey, but if we felt adventurous, or, if the the other stores failed in every way, we would jump on I-78 and head out to Pastimes on the Square in Palmyra, Pennsylvania.

I would call Pastimes the greatest store of all, but they hit all the buttons I was looking for.  A clean store chock full of product, old and new, not in a strip mall, but plenty of parking.  The only major flaw I had for them was that a sideroom that took the full brunt of the sun had a tendency to damage a lot of product.

Last month, with my wife at a weekend conference, and myself in charge of the kids, I decided to venture down south and see what had become of Pastimes.  The good news was that I knew they still existed.  Pastimes has been known to have a table at the HMGS cons in Lancaster and I have a collection of fir trees from them.  The bad news is that I haven't been there since 2004.

Location: For not being there for a decade, it's still easy to find.  Right on US 422 in Palmyra, parking for two hours next to the Army Surplus/Collector Store.   422 is more of a parking lot than ever, and I swear there was a Friendly's for the kids between there and Annville, but I digress.

Presentation:  As we walked in, I was greeted by whom I assume is the owner, and who went right back to his smartphone behind the counter.  The overall layout of most of the store hasn't changed.  The center has a stock of various gaming items, the outer walls and niches contain target demographics long ignored but never fully liquidated.  Needlepoint, Knitting, Models, and Model Trains.  I know the girls were intrigued but some full-sized doll furniture (not doll house sized).   There are three side rooms:  one for the model cars and trains, one for miscellaneous RPGs and yarn. The third used to house their "Avalon Hill-esque" collection of wargames back in the day and some miscellaneous minis and terrain.  Nowadays it's completely dedicated Pastimes' own line of terrain.
The first thing I truly noticed was that at some point they figured out a way to block the blinding sun in the RPG/yarn room and no longer let it get damaged.  Of course, there was still a good deal of product that was sun damaged, not necessarily from recent events, but I do believe those books were there when I visited a decade ago!

RPGs:  Some newer D&D, but the vast majority of the space was dedicated to Pre-3rd Edition.  It was a nice assortment at reasonable (re: well below eBay) prices, and a few items, like Cryptch Magazine, brought back some fun memories.  The RPG/Yarn room houses a number of late 90's/early 00's "gems" that didn't sell back then, so it's a wonder why they're taking up shelf space.  Some of the sun damaged stuff was discounted, but nothing significant.

Minis/Wargaming: Miniatures were basically a small spinner rack Heartbreaker Fantasy, Mutant Chronicles, and old Microarmor, still at 90's pricing.  The sun room also had a good, protected collection f old GW books, mostly mid-90s Warhammer and 40K stuff, again reasonably priced.  There was also a full shelf rack dedicated to wargaming rules and supplements from DBM, to WRG, and I believe the 4th copy of October Revolt I've ever seen for sale.

CCGs:  At this point Millie needed a bathroom, but two things stuck out at me: (a) the racks of booster packs/boxes of games that were dead in 2004, and (b) a four-row shoebox full of Magic singles.  Now, it could be me, but I swear the Goblin Rock Sled and wide border Metamorphosis cards in the front of two of the rows were the same cards that were there in 2004 as well.

Board games:  a decent variety of games, Euro, wargames, and even a chess set or two.  A few "gotcha" items that at least gave me pause, but no interest in buying.

The terrain room:  The Avalon Hill room now terrain room.  The change had slowly begun a decade ago with more historical minis, books, and terrain taking up the room versus the bookshelf games.  Now it's a nice display of their terrain products.  If I hadn't already painted dozens of palm trees, I'd give their supply a go at it.

Play area:  There used to be a play area for gaming, but not it's been relegated to piles of insulation for terrain building, and little sign it had been used much in any other regard.

I wanted to stay longer.  I wanted to find that spark, that reason the store still existed into the modern day, but I had two pressing matters.  First my daughter Millie needed to use the bathroom, and despite further back areas being accessible with gaming area in the past, I wasn't going to even risk asking in its current condition.  Second, even if I wanted to buy something, my debit card  was missing and that gave me even more reason to go back to the car.  We left, hit the nearby Sheetz and I found the card stuck behind my driver's license  for reasons not necessary for this review.

I wanted nostalgia reignited from the store, and all I got were the leftover ashes from a fire that was smoldering out twelve years ago.   One the Gaming with the Gnomies Five-Gnome Scale, I give Pastimes on the Square one and a half gnomes.  
The store has too much forgotten potential for me to rate it one gnome.  It's clean to boot!  Not a speck of dust on the sun-damaged product I keep harping about!

Now that I rated it so low, it might be a shock when I say everyone should visit the store at least once.  They do have enough eccentric and dated material that you should probably find something your looking for.  For a local game store, their only benefit might be the extensive in-house made terrain.

On a more positive note, I took the girls to Funck's Restaurant right outside of Fort Indiantown Gap.  I don't remember eating at Funck's since I was a Reservist back in '96.  The food was solid then and it was great for us.  Plus the service was great, almost bordering on over-attentive.  Add to that the girls got to see where Daddy got to be a soldier when the dinosaurs ruled the Earth and it was a good afternoon excursion.  

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