Hello Arena Games people. After many hurdles in the past months, I am ready to break the silence. What the hell actually happened? I recommend putting on Corporate – T17 Original Mix, make yourself some warm tea and continue reading.
*Author's note: Take it all with a pinch of salt and a heavy dash of hot, burning spice
For around 4 of months prior to the Arena closing we, Ghost and I, had our eyes set on a location in the Kupferstr. The location was awesome for our concept of a Cafe-Hobby-Store. A week before the Arena closed we got a phone call telling us that the deal is off. We hadn’t signed anything since the guy made it clear that there are no problems, that he is on holidays, that everything will be resolved upon his return. Of course, he lied and gave the location to someone else, a driving school from across the street there. We were devastated and scrambled to find a spot. Unfortunately, Ingolstadt is very unforgiving with rent prices…Trying to get a spot of around 100m² in the city center for under 1500€ per month is nearly impossible. As faith would have it though, we found a space for around 120m² in the Schrannenstr. That’s near Le Cafe, so that you can get a feeling for the area. Central, with parking spaces, on 3 levels. Great for what we wanted. We called for around a week, at least 3 times per day, the number that was in the window stating that the owner is looking for anyone to rent it as soon as possible. I finally went to the store that is responsible for the empty location. A sign told me that the staff is on holiday until the 19th of September. Ok. We wait again. 19th of September finally arrived so I went to the store again. 24th of September. The sign was modified. I was, ok…Happens. What’s a week more? 24th of September became the 26th and then the 28th. Around early October we finally got in contact with the woman there…The entire space was actually up for sale, although the sign in the window said: “to rent”. Another week passed. Then another one…I started becoming more and more restless, going towards depression. Things took another turn for the better when we found a location near Hauptbahnhof for a good price and with 120m². Great! Almost the same as the one in Kupferstr. The guy responsible for the location got sick after our meeting. He wasn’t available for more than a week. So his colleague and boss gave the location away in the meantime and I received an email telling me that the responsible guy couldn’t do anything about it since he was sick. In the end, I managed to get a room in the Harderstr. next to the Furchtbar. This is 100% a done deal as most of my stuff is already there. No turning back now 🙂 So, now, we’re here.
I started selling online, something that I have always not been fond of. Most of the time everything revolves around who is the cheapest seller…However, things started looking good for me once I showed some interest in it. It shows how most stores like mine make their money really. Hoping that walk-in customers make the money is a fairly wrong assumption. While there are enough people coming in and buying some stuff, the internet can do more and much more for a business like mine. You’d think “well, duh, you should have done it from the start”. For sure! But would I have had an interest in having a physical shop anymore? Maybe if I’d actually enjoy this type of work, sitting behind a monitor and just playing mini-wall-street-investment-wannabe. I am not really into scouting for cards that could spike and making the best trading deal. I am much more about creating events and experiences. So what happens when you don’t do what you’re good at and, because of self-preservation “I gotta eat” reasons, you do something that clearly doesn’t fit you? Take a wild guess…Anyone? Here’s a hint: a bunch of bad shit happens. You start breaking into pieces and the outside world judges you for it. “He’s rude to his customers”, “he’s not nice”, “he’s difficult to talk to”, “I would go to any other store if there would be a different one opening”, “he’s a drunk”, “he’s strange”, “he’s probably making enough money, why would he keep this store open then?”, “screw that Auslander guy, we will take our drinks inside even if we see the sign on the wall stating not to do that”. Right? Easy to judge from the outside and not see a little bit more how it actually affects me. Am I crying myself a river here? I guess a small lake. Made of salt. I may be all of the things above, but I am also a person 🙂 Take it easy and I will do the same.
I always wanted to be the guy in the background, who organizes stuff and then things just turn out great for everyone. I never wanted to sell stuff at the counter. I did it because I had hopes for a better future for myself. “You should have tried harder”…Maybe. But hell, this is who I am. I can’t just snap my fingers and change all of a sudden. I did become much more open to other people from starting the shop though. So it did help having a 3-year experience as a store clerk. Would I do it again? Nope. No way. Donezo. Unless…I have to.
An end to a 10-year Legacy
I have been playing Magic the Gathering for about 10 years. But then I took an arrow to the knee. My passion for Magic started going down about 2 years ago. I felt it and like any other terrible feeling that comes around, I try to bury it in its box hoping that if I can’t deal with it at the moment, I will at some other point. As time passed I started seeing Magic as more and more of a hobby rather than a business. Ironic, right? And as with hobbies, you let them go and pick them up again. Sometimes for a week, sometimes for even a year or more. But since my store is based on actually making money out of Magic I wasn’t that lucky. You know that feeling when you have to do something you don’t … We already talked about that, so you know where this is going. My frustration with the game grew the more I played it. The flawed concept of lands just ruined my already dwindling interest that I had in Magic. I felt quite disappointed in myself that my frustration started getting the better of me and I took it out, although only as your average salty guy at the game store, on some of my customers. Not the best idea really to get annoyed by the game that makes you money and pays for your food. But alas, such is mana screw 😀 I won’t get into this huge debate as to why Magic is or isn’t better than Hearthstone or Yu-Gi-Oh! or any other TCG out there. They are each different in their own right and have their own pros and cons. But I will say that I much rather prefer Hearthstone, although at one point I actually called it “Magic for dumb people”. Not proud of that one, considering I spent about two weeks playing daily to reach Legend in Hearthstone. I always wondered why Brian Kibler made the switch. If he’s even in the slightest like me, I no longer question his decision. What I can say that will always stay with me from Magic: Commander. Best. Format. Ever.
I have always gravitated towards people who I think are different, who are prime examples of living outside the norm. Could be some goth couple, an unemployed yet brilliant musician…could be anyone really, but there’s this “different” factor that I think we all feel towards some people. When I opened the shop I thought about just keeping to myself and do my job. I slowly got into multiple discussions with a lot of people. Inevitably, that will happen when you own a store and you have to be the store clerk. I slowly let my “different” get another altered definition. So for some grotesque social reason, I started actively looking for friends in my group of visiting customers. MISTAKES WERE MADE. God bless you Valeera and your unhollow words of wisdom. I should have never done that. The line between private and professional should almost never be crossed. Almost. There are some people that I have awkwardly attached myself to over the course of some years and felt like they were my friends. Some still are and I am very grateful for that. When two of my friends told me: “You should quit. You’ve done enough for the community. We just want you to be successful”, maybe that makes a deep enough crack through the bleak crystalized gloomy feelings that have engulfed me over the past months. Thank you, Clemens and Michael. You’ve always been there for me and for the shop and there are very few words that can express my gratitude towards what you have done for me and for my business. Thanks again for never leaving my side. Not even once.
On the flip side, there are people I should not have gotten close to. Technically you can say that about anyone in life. Whether you meet them in a store or in a bar, there are some you think you have a connection with, but then it never really works out. For various reasons. I’ll never say that I wasn’t the issue in some of the supposed friendships I crafted. I am a moody person. I know that and other people may have also figured it out 😀 The ones who did figure it out, take me as I am. I tend to be a great guy if I am feeling comfortable and not have this ever-more pronounced social anxiety that rears its head from time to time checking out the scenery. Most people know that I do well in a small group of people and that crowds are never my thing. What happens when I purposely put myself in the position of being with crowds and having to manage them for 3 years in a row because of my love of games? I get better. And then I get substantially worse because when something isn’t made for you, it can only get worse if you force that something upon yourself. It’s a bit of S&M I didn’t even know that I was subjecting myself to because I always took it as “You MUST do this. There’s no other way”. There always was. I could have hired someone to work for me as a store clerk. However…
The life of an ascetic
My store was making less than 1000€ per month in profit in the first year. The second and third reached around 1200€ per month. That’s crazy, right? In Ingolstadt. Where the rent for a one-room flat is 500€ or more. Then you have all other stuff you have to pay for internet and phone and food. You can barely afford to go out. Then you have to pay back the 17000€ you initially borrowed to open the store in the first place. So how can this be a sustainable living situation? My mistake was reinvesting almost all of my money into the shop. I did it thinking that I am investing in the future. I am certain that it generally isn’t a mistake to do that, but in this case, it was. Not rewarding myself for such a long time made me unhappy and I grew more and more distant from the hope that things will get better. If you’ve read any of my previous entries you’ll know what I am talking about as well with me becoming more and more depressed over the course of all of these happenings. Nobody to blame except for myself for that. This year has been better for my business though. It felt like it was growing. I saw a small increase in the number of people asking about the store and the numbers the store was making also had a small bump. Things should have started working out, finally. Enter karma: “Nope!”. The progress was too slow I guess and the damage was done. After being struck down a few times with the new space in the last months I waved the white flag. But not all is lost and everything will start again. In a completely different manner.
Hell’s gate, heaven’s lounge couch
A bit about the new place. The future game store is situated at the Harderstr. 5, near the Furchtbar. It’s not directly above it as I have falsely said…It’s through a small hallway, above two flights of stairs. For now, some people said that it’s not looking that great. Yeah. There is a lot of work involved in making it look “pretty” enough for people to maybe want to get to the shop. Or maybe it’s just fine enough that nobody will even care. If the previous Arena had a lounge feeling, this one will have an even more pronounced feeling of that. With it’s even more hidden nature than the previous location, it should provide a feeling of just chill outside of the typical day-to-day normalcy.
Pros: Low rent costs, no more drunken idiots coming in asking “to duel” anyone, knocking on windows, screaming in the store to just make fun of my customers. Yeah…Plebs…these damn plebs 😀
Cons: not easily accessed, somewhat of an underworld feeling 😀
If everything works smooth enough, I will have the store up and running within 2 weeks. I am currently sick…so I might take longer. But I will get it done as fast as I can.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
I wanted to change the way my store works. Take it to the “next” level. I thought wrong. I haven’t mastered this level yet. So I will stay stuck at this rank until I get it to run as it should. I skipped a few steps when opening the store 3 years ago. I planned too far ahead in the future and didn’t concern myself with what was in the immediate vicinity. I want to get the store going at its current level. No more dreaming of “a wonderful and exciting future”. Live in the now. Both in mind and body. What happens later, can happen later. Things can change in 5 minutes or less. Everything that you have worked for your entire life could crumble down at a moment’s notice. So enjoying and working for the now is a much better idea. The main focus will be on selling as much as possible from the main bread-winners: MtG and YGO!. I will insist on playing much more Commander for me personally. I will not play any Booster Drafts or Constructed tournaments for the foreseeable future. Except Unstable 😀 I will draft the hell out of that one! Too much fun. Just too much fun with that 🙂 As for the store events, I plan on going much more casual with everything. Sure, I will stick a PPTQ here and there, but that will be the least of my concerns. I want to mainly offer a good time at my store for a few hours with some cool games. No more this accentuated pro-level stuff. Crack a booster open and clash! What if there would be a tournament just for that? Just booster clashing? Fun right? Of course, if people want to get more competitive, with Standard Showdown, all they need to do is ask. I will make it happen. There is an email as well for the store. If you have an idea or issue with anything, why not use the email to contact me? Or send me a message in WhatsApp if you’re already in one of the gaming groups that I have created. Talk to me. I may be a moody guy but remember: moody also means I have good moods 😉 It’s not all rain and dark clouds here.
With the rent being somewhat lower I will also have a price change policy for everything really. I want to be able to offer enough reason to the local community to buy from me and not from anyone else. If that means being a bit cheaper, so be it. I would like to think that it’s because people want to support a local store, but I am no longer that naive. It’s all about the money. While some do support me (and thank you for that!), most are looking for the best deal. I hope I can offer something close enough to make it worth your purchase. We will see in a few weeks.
Back to the roots
It’s exactly what’s happening now. I will return to the original concept of the store and see where it leads me. My life is going in a fascinating direction right now and I am embracing every minute of mystery and suspense. It’s nice to get the small things and breathe easy for a while. I had two and a half months of downtime. It did me a whole lot of good. When you’re too long in one spot you tend to not see what’s beyond your line of sight. I think I have a stronger grasp on what I want to do and where I plan to make my next move. In the meanwhile, guys, girls, cats, dogs, evil spirits, friends, foes…
See you in the Arena!