Local Gaming Business in Dire Straits

A few weeks ago, I posted that I wished that businesses in need of help to make it through a rough patch would tell us, so we could eat there more often or buy more goods. Today, I got this message. -db

Dragonport logo
Dragon Port Games & Comics LLC
We would like to thank the wonderful gaming & comic community for another year serving all of you in Downtown Duluth. However as 2011 has been a tough year sales wise and the store is in a bit of a bind. Now as when we got started, Dragon Port needs to make an appeal to the community to give us a hand.

We have started a 20% sale to increase sales but we know that in itself may not be enough. We need you to help us out this holiday season. In the next 5 weeks in order to fend off some serious negative changes to the store we need to have a big sales month. If this doesn’t happen, the future is bleak.

We have events like Friday Night Magic, Warhammer Fantasy Tourney (Dec. 3rd) Gaming & Comic Auction Dec. 10th, and Warhammer 40k Tourney (Dec. 17th) we would love to see you attend as well. 🙂

We love everything the gaming & comic community has done for us and we hate to ask for more but we have little choice. So if you enjoy our events, our staff, and everything we try to help bring to the gaming community. We need your purchases sooner rather than later.

Whatever happens, keep gaming, keep reading, and enjoy life.

If you are a gamer, a comic reader, or a fan of nerd culture, and you have the ability, give a gift from Dragon Port this holiday season. Hundreds of people use their game space, their free wifi, and their awesome staff every week. Show the love in return.

26 Comments

Jadiaz

about 8 years ago

I've gone to Dragon Port twice. Both times the store opened late while I waited at 11:00 outside their door. Both times staff were more into doing whatever they were busy with than asking if I needed help. I was turned off to the place, especially with other gaming shops with friendly staff and hours that are kept.

Perhaps I'll try Dragon Port again to see if my experiences were just two flukes as I do enjoy local business, but be warned Dragon Port, if I have another bad experience, you'll never see my business again.

Conrad

about 8 years ago

Thanks for the update. I have had nothing but good experiences at Dragon Port though my lack of interest in those things prevent me from going there a lot. They all were helpful to a non-knowing comic guy when the ender's comics came out and I had multiple visits there. I will give it a shot.

Biff Nimrod

about 8 years ago

Small businesses, as well as large, need to realize customer service is a must. As an old guy snowboarder, I stopped going to Freestyle of Duluth when the dudes in the shop were more interested in watching the skate video than asking how they could help me. I now do business with Damage (great shop) and FOD is no longer.

tamara

about 8 years ago

I will make sure to buy some holiday gifts here and hope you will all do the same, and then continue going throughout the year. 

If for nothing else than that all of you who know Walter know Walter is going to need this place in ten years.

[email protected]

about 8 years ago

I'll just chime in here to say:  waitaminute, Nimrod.  While I appreciate your comments, if they're not about an experience at Dragon Port, they are nonrelevant here.  

There's a certain tone of "this small business deserves it" in Jadiaz and Nimrod's comments that bugs me.  Yes, there were some folks employed at the store who took their responsibilities less seriously than others.  That would be true at every shop in town, at one point or another, including some of the competing shops in this category.  I'm willing to forgive a bad day on their part, once in a while.  You may not be, and that's a choice I have to respect, but I think it places a high burden on a small business.  Remember, these employees are there because they care, not because this is the best job in town.  Any one of them could walk across the street to Starbucks and earn more than they do at Dragon Port.  But they don't care about coffee;  they care about the community of gaming.

At the same time, let's also be clear:  Dragon Port functions, like no other shop in the city, as a place where gamers congregate -- like a community center, instead of like a business in many ways to the store's credit and to its likely detriment.  What other business in town would let dozens of customers use its resources (its gaming tables, its wifi, its game library) for hours at a time, for days at a time, without concern for whether or not that customer bought a single thing?  Even Barnes and Noble would make you buy a coffee or ask you to leave the cafe after a certain point. Indeed, Dragon Port often let people bring in the games that the bought on the internet, the twelve-pack of soda they bought at Wal-Mart, and the food they grabbed at the Pizza Man, and so spend an entire day enjoying the shop as if it were a non-profit community center.  Management welcomes everyone because everyone is part of the community of gaming.

The problem is not customer service, at least not entirely.  That's unlikely to account for the drop in sales in the last year.  We know what accounts for some of it (see other PDD threads about unpaid workers, about slowing economies generally).  Regular customers whom I used to hang with at the shop have lost jobs, and when they do, some of them stopped coming in to chill on New Comics Wednesday.

But the amazing thing about Dragon Port is:  when some of those customers lost their jobs, or their income was slashed (or their parents' income, as many of the customers are minors), Dragon Port said:  "Don't worry about it.  C'mon in.  Play some games.  Argue about the New 52 from DC comics.  We're a community here.  We know you'll start buying again when the job comes back and the economy settles down.  Don't worry about it."  So the store remains full and active even when the sales are down.

We are a community here.  My question is, can the community sustain the shop that sustains the community?  I hope so.

Jadiaz

about 8 years ago

I was just letting Dragon Port know that I expect good service. As I said, I'll go back as long as the experience I had the only two times I went isn't repeated. 

Dungeons End is a new shop, but allows use of its space for free for gaming, has free shop games you can go play, and has friendly helpful staff. I don't know the owners other than the few times I've swung in now, nor do I have any affiliation with the shop. I'm just pointing out that Dragon Port is not the only place that allows those who don't make purchases. Collectors Connection holds tournaments and game nights as well. 

Dragon Port is not a unique place. As answered above, there are other stores that do all Dragon Port does. Heck, Even Barnes and Nobles has free Wifi, a gaming library, and lets me sit there all day if I want looking at their books without paying. 

I can forgive a bad day. When I go back and the experience is the same, i.e. waiting ten or more minutes for the doors to open when the sign says 11 and poor customer service, I am not likely to return. Sure I could have just gotten two fluke days, but the pressure is on them to make me want to return, not on me to keep going back. Same with any shop of any kind.

Rhetoric, you found a home there in a way and that's great. I already stated I'll give it one more go. Please though, realize that your post above is not entirely truthful as there are alternatives to Dragon Port that afford the same luxuries. 

I shared my experiences there so that maybe Dragon Port, which I'm sure is monitoring this thread, can perhaps keep others from having the same bad impression I was left with.

It may be a community shop, but it is first and foremost a business, and with competition in both fields rising, they better figure out how to be sustainable as both.

[email protected]

about 8 years ago

Jadiaz,

Let me parse your answer.  We agree more than we disagree, but I want to clarify things for people who may not be familiar with the shops we are talking about.

1.  Barnes and Noble does not have a game library, nor does it allow you to sit in the cafe without paying for something in high volume periods.  Yes, between 8pm and 10pm, when volume is low, no one cares, but at other times, they do ask for purchase.  

In any case, arguing that other businesses don't make you buy things is an angle I don't see as productive.  Treating any business, B&N or DP ir any other, as a library is a recipe for seeing that business fade away.  

2.  As my support for their shop in multiple venues shows, I am a HUGE Collector's Connection fan.  Tim is, hands down, the best owner-manager of a hobby shop north of the Twin Cities, and they get the bulk of my hobby purchases simply because they do the most to get new and back issue comics in stock.  That said, you can't compare three card tables in a shop that closes at 8pm to the dozens of tables, large gaming library and support equipment, and extended hours of Dragon Port.  Gaming events at Dragon Port continue until there is a winner, regardless of posted hours for the shop -- a level of commitment that exceeds what is possible for Collector's Connection.

All of this is to say:  You can order a hamburger at Sara's Table, you can order a hamburger at Gronk's, they will both be awesome, but they are not the same thing.  Same here.

3.  I've only been to Dungeon's End once.  I can't speak comparatively beyond anecdotes.  They've only been open a month, in any case, so many measures are still waiting to be tested.

My point, I think, is that Duluth is or can be a gaming and comics ecology.  In fact it should be.  Dragon Port offers things Collector's cannot.  And both CC and DP offer things DE cannot.  We would love much to lose any of them.

That said, I'll agree with you here:

"It may be a community shop, but it is first and foremost a business, and with competition in both fields rising, they better figure out how to be sustainable as both."

I agree, and you are right, customer service is a huge part of that.  If I over-reacted, and I might have, it's because I have enormous sympathies for people making minimum wage or less.

Conrad

about 8 years ago

I have to agree, being a community shop unfortunately doesn't count as good service. Counts as being good sports though.  Gaming shops are inherently going to have the same set up Dragon Port does.  It promotes the type of business that DP is in and helps keep sales in the store.

And its not the only place or business that has people who don't buy stuff.  Barber shops, my favorite example, have people who don't need haircuts hanging out all the time taking up waiting seats that paying customers could have. Plus a lot of the older of the barber shop crowd are kinda creepers.  Makes barbers good sports not necessarily good customer service representatives.

I still contend that I have had nothing but good service at DP, give it another try.

Fred

about 8 years ago

Nuh said... get busy. Buy local: http://www.the350project.net/home.html

jake

about 8 years ago

Service discussion aside, I'll swing in and buy something.

adam

about 8 years ago

Biff's comment is extremely relevant. (I have not experienced bad service at Dragon Port or FOD.)

With all things (products offered) being equal, what separates businesses? Service. Why? Because service is the only thing that I cannot buy; that each business is their own expert at. It is the intangible that helps people determine their purchasing decisions.

Place A offers X. It is OK. Place B offers X, and the people there are super nice and helpful.

[email protected]

about 8 years ago

Adam: I think I have to be the argument police here. Stories about the skateshop just don't explain the fate of the comic shop.

If it feels like I'm defensive, well, I admitted earlier that I hate to see the sub-minimum wage worker scapegoated.  I would add to that I remember the fiasco on PDD when people who never ate at a local Vietnamese restaurant (about a year ago) piled on to talk about how lousy the food and service was.  I'd like to keep it real -- real concerns by, for, and about Dragon Port, not other retailers.

Biff Nimrod

about 8 years ago

Sorry, didn't mean to skew the thread away from Dragon Port.

[email protected]

about 8 years ago

No worries, Biff.  I'm clearly worried about the jobs of friends and it's making me tetchy.

DragonPoor

about 8 years ago

Dragon Port games is a fun place to go.  I think they need a sign on Superior Street so people realize it is there.

I bought a comic book about Japanese politics there once.  They also had Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, which I had thought was gone into OOP status.  Good table space too. Cool stuff.

Maybe there should be a rule that you can follow.  If you use their tablespace, buy something.  Comics are cheap and fun, so everyone's a winner.

Jessie W.

about 8 years ago

I love it at Dragon Port and I would be very sad to see it go. My significant other really loves Friday Night Magic and I love that even though I am not participating, I am still very welcome.

After reading this post I am far more apt to buy a graphic novel rather than just reading it while I hang out. I have always had wonderful service there when looking for, none of the making a girl feel dumb and out of her element, as can happen a some gaming/comic stores!

I hope the holiday season goes very well for them.

ironic1

about 8 years ago

What makes Dragon Port unique in the Twin Ports is its downtown location, the amount of space it has devoted to gaming, its hours, and the amount of stuff you can use for free.  They have also been consistently supportive of Geek Prom, supporting it with both money and material year after year.  They also provided prizes for the Buffy/Dr. Horrible Sing-a-Long last year, giving the organizers so many prizes we had to create a few new categories to get rid of them.

So, heck yeah, I'm gonna make sure I drop a few holiday bucks there.

[email protected]

about 8 years ago

Jeff Niceswanger of Dragon Port also initiated and co-sponsored the showings of the Walking Dead at Zinema2.  While I am always grateful to Zinema2 for its innovative free use of the facility, that was a Dragon Port idea for the community.

Eldon "Donny" Krosch Jr.

about 8 years ago

Hi my Name is Donny Krosch and I am one of the owners at Dragon Port. 

First off I would like to say I am sorry to anyone who has had bad customer service experiences at Dragon Port. This certainly does not excuse them but being a small shop with a single employee working the til lends itself to some issues such as a car not starting or a delay at the bank making something that should have lasted 5 minutes last 30 minutes. It certainly doesn't excuse not opening on time, but small things like that could cause us to open late. 

Also, I have personally been a bit short of cash and haven't gotten my car out of the shop so there have been at least two times in the past three months where a missed bus caused me to open the store 10 to 15 minutes late. Again, not excusable, but those are the types of reasons generally we open late if we do. I am sorry for not opening on time and I don't want to explain away the fault which is clearly ours. 

To those who have had a great time at Dragon Port, I would like to thank you for the kind words. We love any help the community tosses our way. 

As for being unique to the area, well Dungeon's End and Collectors Connection combined don't have the gaming space we have downtown. We also have a massive amount of Demo Board Games and war gaming terrain that is unmatched anywhere in the state outside of the Twin Cities. We offering onsite locker storage and run a large number of events for a lot of different games every day of the week. 

Sales are down this year overall and November was our worst sales month in the history of the store. This sadly after a promising September that looked like we were on a strong track again. 

If we can no longer continue to be open it is certainly a business loss on my end at this point. But also it means four jobs (at times five) going away and all of the services we offer from tournaments, comic pull lists, and gaming space will be gone. Yes, you can gets pieces of that elsewhere and perhaps other stores will even do more things. But it not likely to be exactly the same. At this point we would love the help, but if it doesn't come some hard choices will need to be made. 

Thanks for taking your time to comment everyone.

Claire

about 8 years ago

Good luck Donny, I strongly believe in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, idiosyncrasies and all.

tang!

about 8 years ago

This Holiday will be a lean one, but every penny I spend will be at local businesses.  Expect a visit from me, Dragon Port!  I've never been there, and I'm looking forward to it!

Ramos

about 8 years ago

I support local businesses, too. I just don't want to get too passionate about it, or the moderators will shut down the thread.

Congratulations to the Northland News Center and the News Tribune for stepping up to the plate!

Ramos

about 8 years ago

And congratulations to PDD as well. That 50 Below thread may have resulted in the most real-world impact a post has had since you opened for business. Such a thing would not have been possible ten years ago. A voice for the voiceless, and all that.

I do hope that 50 Below employees keep us posted on what's going on (which would be another good reason to keep that thread open). Stories like these can make a big splash and then fade away to nothing, even if nothing changes.

[email protected]

about 8 years ago

Hey Ramos.  Is this spam now, or just threadjacking?  

Folks who saw the DNT article online (Biz Blog: Duluth games shop pleads for sales) have commented about how brave or crazy Donny was to take this leap. I say, honesty is always brave.

brian

about 8 years ago

Jeebus, is it that hard to get our name right?
"And it soon was posted on the Perfect Day Duluth blog."

Eldon Krosch Jr.

about 8 years ago

The Sales continue at Dragon Port Games & Comics

40% off all Graphic Novels 
plus a large selection of them for a $1 each 
40% off all Board Games
40% off all Warhammer
40% off Flames of War 
40% off Hobby Materials 
until further notice! 

Help us move some inventory at the end of the year and boost up sales to shake off a down sales year in 2011. We have the largest selections of Graphic Novels, War Gaming, and Hobby Gaming Materials in the Twin Ports! Dragon Port needs your help and you get a really great deal in the process. :)

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