(By Ben Calica, store owner guy)
So we’ve been struggling with a problem. People were so excited about us reopening and doing in person events, that when we finally started doing them, we were a bit dismayed when they were so lightly attended. We’ve been doing what we could to keep things safe, limiting the number of players, putting air filtration systems on the tables, etc. But we still were missing our people, in a way that was a bit of a head scratcher. First, I asked the other store owners on our Facebook secret handshake club groups how they were doing, I got a polar split. A bunch of folks were having the same experience I was, and others were having record breaking attendance. With a quick bit of digging, it turned out that there is an almost direct correlation between vaccine/mask acceptance and how well the store were doing. Guess it isn’t really a surprise that the parts of the country that don’t take Covid seriously, are the ones who are packing their stores. Sigh… So then I did some reaching out to our community to ask what was going on in their brains. The results were interesting.
- The $^#$ing Delta variant. A whole bunch of people are really concerned about the new variant and it changed them from “yay it’s actually over” to “actually, not going out to events with people so much for a while longer”. It’s not V-Day, more like meerkats popping up their heads to see if it is safe and hearing something rustling in the bushes.
- Masks, glorious Masks: I could understand this one, having just been to the movies for the first time in a year and a half. We wear our masks dutifully when we are out and about, but the idea of spending our fun time wearing them as well just is too much for a bunch of people.
- Too much $$/where oh where did our drafting go? This one is on me and I’m not sure what to do about it? As much as I love magic drafting, the idea of passing a bunch of cards from hand to hand isn’t a particularly safe sounding idea right now. So I decided that taking all the prerelease kits we couldn’t get to play with over the sheltered days would be a great solution. Super fun and you get to build your own decks without touching anyone else’s. The truth is that I was going to need to raise the prices of the events anyway since it is gonna take a while for us to recover, and when we have smaller events, we still have to pay the same for workers and roof and stuff. (My plan had been to set the new prices, but let anyone who couldn’t afford it pay the old prices for a little while. Sort of a suggested donation thing.)
- You have to be this tall (age) to go on this ride…what about the kids? This one is really killing me. Because the under 12 crowd can’t be vaccinated yet, we (and a whole bunch of other places) can’t have them participate in events. I started the @#% shop to create a safe place for kids (and others) to be and learn how to treat each other with respect and kindness. And now I have to say no to letting them into the store to play? (That is the thing that makes me roiling mad at those who are proudly showing off their willful stupidity. They are creating this perfect training ground for new and more dangerous variants to grow and because of them, people who have been caring for each other and doing the right thing are having to suffer. Grrrrr-that is the G rated version of what I’ve been feeling.)
- People don’t know things are happening again. This one is also on me. The rebuilding has been slow as molasses since all the contractors are out contracting, and I haven’t done a great job in spreading the word. But we did for last month, so that isn’t the whole thing. Still, don’t be shocked if you see me out front in a giant Pikachu outfit, spinning a sign like and Olympic twirling champion. (ok…that is not gonna happen… I look terrible in yellow.)
So what are we doing about all this?
- Keeping things small and safe. I want y’all alive and well and us not being a vector for anything but good stuff.
- Always make it worth showing up. If you sign up for an event and it doesn’t fire, count on leaving with some promos and/or packs that will make it worth the trip. If this sounds like bribes to prime the pump, well, yeah…you got that one right on the money.
- Take suggestions to share on the most comfy masks. Hey, if we gotta wear ’em, lets find the good ones.
- Keep things regular: Knowing that we are having certain events every week helps over time. For example, we are bringing back Magic two headed Giants every sat. And we are going to bring back D&D. We might do online D&D as well for a while while this all gets figured out.
- Be patient with this. It is gonna be a long, very difficult haul. but we will do what we must to keep making it through..
- Listen to you guys. We need to hear what things work or don’t work for you. That is the only way we can adapt to this weird world. (again)