Sunday, May 6, 2018

(Review) The Portal Comics and Games, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

I'll drop an amusing fact onto my loyal readers.  Despite the fact that it's been in business for well over a decade (15 years?) and that I was still living in the Lehigh Valley for a portion of that, I have never set foot in any location of The Portal Comics and Gaming.

That is, until this past weekend.

After some nice conversations with the owners at Mepacon, and my Mom getting discharged sometime Sunday afternoon, I took a Sunday drive route towards St Lukes in Bethlehem and discovered its location.

Location:  321 Woodlawn Ave in Bethlehem, PA might sound like a suburban address, but it's a convenient side street between Linden St (PA 191 further north) and E. Elizabeth Ave.   In fact, not only is it a great location, sharing the mini-mall structure with a CVS, but it's about a block up from where Linden and Elizabeth Ave meet, right in front of Liberty High School.

Cleanliness: In hindsight, the store felt a little dark for a Sunday afternoon, but I had no trouble looking at everything.  Considering the owners took half the store's stock to Mepacon, I could expect some interesting dust bunnies exposed from empty shelves, but I found none.  Things were properly organized.  I didn't go back into the open gaming area, but if the hallway leading to that room was clean, I can safely assume the open gaming got cleaned up from the night before.

Amenities:  A couple cases of CCG singles and miniatures dominated my initial view of the store.  I could imagine, if they could use hindsight, they might swap the Comics and Games in their title, as the new comics, back issues, and trades took up a very tiny footprint in the store.  (Signing up for the comic reserve/pull list earns you a 25% discount on comics).

RPGs:  With a full table (and a few crates) of books up at the con in Scranton, it was nice to see they didn't take everything.  A couple shelves of numerous games.  In fact, in my journeys in PA, their non-convention selection rivaled that of the other stores I've recently visited combined. Nothing I found attractive, but it's nice to have stock to actually peruse that's beyond D&D and Pathfinder.

Miniatures: Lots of Warmachine and Games Workshop dominated the wall, but I was immediately drawn to a smaller but varied display of Reaper minis, metal, Bones, and even one of the WizKids Wardlings pack placed there.  The official D&D primed minis are nice, but I love to search through the Reaper catalog and find some oddball figs.  Mission accomplished!

CCGs:  Lots of Magic and singles.  I didn't actively look for other games and didn't see any events listed on their calendar.
The sales floor view from the back of the store.
Events:  The calendar I linked above has a good assortment of Magic tourneys, painting clinics, D&D Adventurer's League, and some alternating GW and Privateer events, with room left over for other pick-up options.

Staff:  From my experiences with the owners at The Portal at Mepacon I had solid expectations of the staff, and I'm happy to say, when the cats were away (at a con), the mice did not play.  The staff were friendly, professional, gave me plenty of space, and when I came to the register with my purchases, they explained to me the discount program in a quick and concise manner ( $100/yr of purchases nets you a 5% discount / $1000 is 10% and $10,000 earns you 15% off).

The backroom, from their Facebook Page
I picked up a random Reaper Bones the lone WizKids Wardling and was on my way to up dear old Mom.

There have been many game stores in the Lehigh Valley over the years, and I'm happy to say that The Portal strikes the most natural balance between comics, games, and in-store gaming that I've seen.  While it's certainly a destination store (unless you're visiting Liberty High or Moravian College), it's easy to get to, has friendly staff, and looked like a fully stocked store with half of it's inventory at a convention.  That's the sign of a successful business plan  and years of blood, sweat, and tears to bring it to fruition.

On the Gaming with the Gnomies Five-Gnome Scale, The Portal gets four and a half gnomes.
You check out previous store reviews under the tag reviews to see what I consider five gnomes, but this is exactly the type of store every gamer wants to have nearby, so you Eastern Lehigh Valley types should take full advantage of the resource you have.

The only reason I'm happy it took me this long to visit the store is that I would have spent a lot more money over the years.

The Portal Comics and Games
321 Woodlawn Avenue
Bethlehem, PA 18018-2627
(610) 419 – 8004

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