Oh my god are we rusty at this!
So we are trying to do a dress rehearsal reopening for a prerelase of the new Magic set (the first blend of Magic and D&D). Not only will this be the first time we are open beyond the length of a phone booth on end, (Ha, figure that one out, ya rascally youngsters.) but it will be the first live/face to face events we’ve done since the shut down, sometime in the early ’50s. Turns out that we have a new system that doesn’t work as well at the events as we thought, and the guys from Wizards had that new tournament system that came out after we closed that we have NEVER had a chance/need to use before. We are working on getting the events for the weekend up and ready to go, but the first attempt did not work so well.
Opening Slooooowly (Practice open on the 16th…real open later in the month) :
We’ve been extremely slow to open, because what we do is perfectly designed to be bad for a pandemic. The soul of the store is getting people to play face to face, not face to screen. But sitting down across from someone else 2-3 feet away, is kind of the very last thing that should reopen. We closed early and never tried to push the limits because I knew that if someone came and said “you could keep your mom alive if you close your store for a couple of months” that I’d do that in a heartbeat. And if that was true, how could we not do the same for others. I was very zen about it in the beginning, but became decently cranky when the time got extended because people where being willfully stupid. (I stay fairly neutral in my politics, but if anyone has been anti-mask, anti-vax, I’m more than slightly grumpy about that.*)
The other thing that slowed down our reopening was ironically the same loan that pretty much saved us.
We survived..(thanks to life rings tossed)
I won’t lie…it was a very close thing. You guys kept me alive for the first 4 months or so with some awesome support via the loot bags. Our landlord helped big time by cutting us a big break in the beginning and then taking a hit by reducing our rent for most of the rest of the year. (Pain spread out between all of us made it possible for us to survive).
Right after Xmas was the closest moment. I remember thinking that I didn’t know if we had enough money left to declare bankruptcy. (That is something they never talk about…saving the money you need to declare you are out of money…sheesh.) We got two grants, one from the county that I didn’t even remember applying for, and another from the state, that meant we were probably going to be able to make it to the beginning of summer. I’ll be honest…my zen started fading big time. I started feeling depressingly depressed, to the point where I went for help. (Pretty hard to find a therapist. For some reason they were in high demand at that time. ) I was diagnosed with “Adjustment Disorder, which basically means things are so spectacularly sucky that it finally really gets to you. It was particularly good to go to the weekly meeting with the other small business owners in Alameda, if nothing else to know that all of us were feeling this way. We were seeing something that we really loved and spent years building get chopped up like a Lego tower under the crashing butt of a falling baby brother.
Can I pay you Tuesday, for a remodeled store today? (adventures in loan land.)
At the beginning of the year, the big lifeline came, in the form of a pretty good loan from the SBA. It is sort of exactly the opposite of a retirement account, but I knew that right before the pandemic hit, we were starting to have our best year ever, and I might actually be able to turn the business into something that didn’t just need love, but something great that might actually be able to give me some of that love back. We put together some plans to do upgrades for the store. And then the worst best (best/worst?) thing happened. In the new relief bill, there was a provision that would let us take 4x the original amount of the loan. That changed everything, so we threw away the smaller plans and started working on the big upgrade. I carefully responded within an hour of getting the letter saying I could apply for the added amount. I found out a few weeks later that the email they sent had a bad mail to link that added a period and keep the response from getting to the right place. It made me grumpy because it could be almost a month before they got to it instead of a few weeks.
That was April 6th. (For those counting at home, that is over 3 months ago.) Turns out that those folks who got their applications in on those first couple of days, got their loans approved within a couple of weeks, but anyone who’s request came later got in line with what turned out to be 35 million plus overdue refunds, and a massively understaffed IRS who couldn’t actually do so much at home as everyone thought. I call every week and try to be nice to the SBA folks just in case something actually gets sent. What it has meant was that the big remodel that I was(am) planning to do is on hold, waiting…waiting…waiting…. (sigh…see, zen returned..sort of).
So this weekend we are going to (try and) run the events for the new Magic set. And we are gonna have a few changes while we wait for the big upgrade to happen.
- More events with less people in each. (No more maxing out how many people we can have sit on the shelves with the elves.)
- Specific times for us to buy cards so we make sure we have enough people around to do it.
- More specific events, including regular after school events. (Looking to add chess tournaments etc, more D&D, etc.)
- We know we need to charge more appropriate prices (combo of costs going up and making sure this place is making enough $$ to survive and thrive.) I’ve been struggling with this, because I know for some people the last year is hard, and I don’t want to make something that gives them joy too expensive. They thing I think I’m going to try out is this. If, for example, we raise the price of FNM to $20, if someone just can’t afford it, they can just say so and pay the old price. If you can afford it, we need the the income, particularly since we are going to be making sure the events are smaller/more comfortable. We will try this for the next 3 months and see what happens
- Keeping the place/world safe. There may be (probably will be) folks who disagree with this, but I’m using my prerogative as a store owner to say no shoes, no shirt, no vax or mask, no service. For events, for the foreseeable future, anyone over 12 will need to bring vax card to participate in any event. (We will have special events for those under 12) Having unvaccinated people interacting in public, creates a lovely little breeding ground for more dangerous variants. Anyone is welcome to disagree, and we will happily bring things to the front door. But I just almost lost my business, and a whole lot of people died in pretty horrible ways, or are left functionally disabled with long hauler symptoms, because of what I can only account as willful ignorance. As I said, if you disagree, we can do so respectfully, but not in my premises.
More to come…gonna go back and dig into the event listing hell….