Every few months, someone (usually a customer) will ask me out of the blue what prompted me to open a game store. (Sometimes they call it a card shop, but it's not. Never that.)
For some reason, the question always catches me off guard, and I never really have an answer at the ready. I usually mumble something about "this isn't my first store" (it's not) or "I like games" (I do) or some random crap like that, which usually results in the followup admission of "but I really don't get to play games, for the most part. too busy." followed by "yes, I appreciate the irony of that." blah blah blah.
So I've taken some time and given it some thought, and ultimately it boils down to this:
One of my happiest childhood memories took place a few months after getting into D&D for the first time (1979.) I had a small mountain of books, purchased from the Crossroads Hobby Shop and The Collectors Box, both in Roanoke, VA.
For some reason, I was in Charlottesville, VA at a book store. They didn't really have "game stores" back then. I remember walking to the back of the store and "discovering" the various RPG materials tucked into a spinning rack. With adventure titles like White Plume Mountain, Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Dungeon Geomorphs, and The Dwarven Glory, I was instantly captivated.
As I flipped through the current issue of Dragon Magazine (somewhere between #35 and #40, I believe, but memory fades) I was equally as fascinated by the advertisements as the articles. I wanted to immerse myself in this world. I devoured every word, every page. I studied every map.
It wasn't about the community of gamers (I hadn't discovered that part yet.) It wasn't about wanting to own my own store (I was way too young to think about that.) It wasn't even about the "sense of wonder" I felt when I discovered this interesting new world (Greyhawk.) It wasn't even about playing the game.
Nope, my motivator was GREED. I was Smaug... and this was my personal treasure hoard. I had to have it all. Every book, every box. Every pamphlet, every character sheet. Every die, every mini. I was (and am) a collector, from the moment I got my first set.
Full disclosure time... I have one of the largest "pure" D&D collections on the east coast. I still have every box set, every set of dice, including my first. I still have nearly every book, every mini, every card, even the old TSR product catalogs... aside from a couple items that were stolen from me, which I eventually replaced. Add to this a small mountain of board games, card games, other sci-fi & fantasy RPGs... the list goes on.
In many ways, the store is an extension of that obsessive need to expand my ever growing collection. The difference is that now I can justify my need to acquire by my reluctant willingness to relinquish pieces of my hoard to potential customers.
Make no mistake though, even now I silently take the measure of every person that approaches my counter. Are they worthy of such treasures? Will they appreciate them as I have? Will they give it a good home? With every sale, I'm trading one piece of my hoard for another.