The Definitive Guide to Gaming Stores in Louisville: Part 5
The Definitive Guide to Gaming Stores in Louisville: Part Five
by Andy B; photographs and map illustrations by Andy B.
The directors of Nerd Louisville conceived the idea of a “Guide to Louisville Gaming Shops.” The original intent was for this guide to be a single feature article. As I set out to research the guide, I realized that this project is too big for a single article. There are at least a dozen gaming shops – maybe more. Instead, I will write multiple installments with a final summary at the end.
The purpose of this guide is to help nerds living in, or visiting, Louisville to find the shops that fit their interests – not just in terms of products, but also their preferred age group, playing style, and atmosphere. The intent is to promote all gaming shops in the city, not to rate them or criticize.
The information in this guide was researched in late 2015. This guide will not provide opening and closing times, since they sometimes change. We wouldn’t want you to plan your visit based on this guide if a store changes its hours. For store hours, check each store’s website or Facebook page (links provided).
[kleo_divider type=”long” position=”center”]
With the help of Amber, our new University of Louisville intern, I hoped today’s trip would finish this damned game store guide, but nooooo, apparently this nightmare will never end. We got to visit some awesome shops though.
Book & Music Exchange, New Cut
“Oh my God, this place is so awesome. I’m going to have to come back here with my boyfriend,” said Amber when we entered the Book & Music Exchange on New Cut Road.
I felt the same way, except I don’t have a boyfriend.
- Address: 5534 New Cut Road
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BMEnewcut
- History: “Years, man, at least,” according to the staff; 15 years maybe?
- Gaming Area: 2 tables
- Crowd: Several customers, but no gamers on a Sunday afternoon
- Parking: Located in the Auburndale Village Shopping Center, with a huge parking lot
- Nearest drink: : Spectator Sports Bar & Grill, two doors down in the same shopping center
This was my first visit to the New Cut branch of the Book & Music Exchange (BME) franchise and I was impressed. It is clearly the largest BME in town. A rack of samurai swords for sale is prominently displayed near the entrance and there are more samurai swords at the checkout counters. You don’t see any samurai swords at the other BMEs in town. I suspect that live blades might not mix with the drunken customers that browse the Bardstown Road BME between bars. In the Preston BME, a LARPer might mistake one for a foam sword and accidentally decapitate someone. The swords are representative of the quirky blend of nerd culture items for sale in the Newcut BME: comics, board games, video games, books, movies, toys, posters, and more.
The New Cut BME is a Mecca for cheap, used console games, books, movies, and music. They have more than 10,000 console games, including games for older systems. They sell a lot of retro game consoles, like the Retron 5, which can play Sega, NES, Game Boy, and other vintage games. The store has more than 40,000 used movies, including 2,000 Blue-rays. They get about 50 new comic book titles in each week and have more than 8,000 back issue comics.
The staff is friendly and enthusiastic. While I was browsing, they helped a dad learn how to play the Pokemon card game with his kindergarten-age son. There were three clerks on duty. We mostly spoke to Robin, the “Magic Overseer” (i.e. the guy in charge of Magic:The Gathering at the store, although the title could have more mysterious connotations). Robin has only been in the job for a few months and would love to have some gamers play on the tables in the store, which have barely been used for the last few years. The New Cut BME has a lot of potential as a game shop. It is available for gamers seeking a hospitable venue.
The Zone Comic Shop
I overlooked The Zone when I covered the Saint Matthews area in the first installment of the game store guide. I used to browse in The Zone at its previous location, when I had to escape the racket from my kids’ birthday parties at Lazer Blaze, next door. I knew it as a comic book and manga store, but I didn’t realize it hosted games. Then, I heard from multiple sources that The Zone hosts a group that plays Heroclix on Wednesday nights, so I added it to the tour.
- Address: 291 N Hubbards Ln Ste 125
- Website: http://zonecomicshop.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Zone-Comic-Shop-83374226972
- History: Eight years in the current location on Hubbard’s Lane since purchased by current owner, Daniel Thompson, who moved it from the previous site by Lazer Blaze on Shelbyville Road; apparently, it had two earlier locations since it was established in 1993; The Zone’s website provides a detailed history
- Gaming Area: A back room with several tables, currently only used for Heroclix on Wednesday night but available for others who might propose to sponsor gaming groups
- Crowd: Just Amber and me chatting with Erica, an employee
- Parking: In a large but very crowded parking lot; I guess it was discount day for senior citizens at Kroger because I had to park halfway across the lot; the traffic leaving the shopping center was like trying to get home from Thunder Over Louisville
- Nearest drink: Forget it, no bars within a mile; the closest would be downtown Saint Matthews
The Zone is mostly a comic book shop rather than a game shop. They get 30-50 titles per week and have a huge, well-organized collection of back issues – 70 bins the size of large comic boxes, so well over 10,000 comics – in a clean, bright, and spacious showroom. The Zone sells Dice Masters and a few board games but only qualifies for inclusion in this guide because they host a Heroclix group that meets on Wednesday nights. If someone were looking for a venue to host a small group on another night of the week, this might be a good option.
It was time to cross the river into Hoosierland. Hockeyman’s is only a couple of blocks from the Big Four Bridge, so it is probably the closest gaming store to downtown Louisville, even though it is on the wrong side of the river.
Why is it called Hockeyman’s? “Because I like Hockey,” Ken said.
- Address: 125 E Maple St
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hockeymans-Collectibles-148358658570777
- History: Established by owner, Ken Stout, in 1996; although, he sold collectibles at another nearby location since the 1980s before opening Hockeyman’s
- Gaming Area: A game room with its own street entrance with three tables
- Crowd: 13 people playing in a Magic: The Gathering tournament, with a mom sitting in a comfortable chair, minding the toddler little sister of one of the players; Hockeyman’s appears to be very kid-friendly
- Parking: In downtown Jeffersonville; you can parallel park on the street out front if a spot is open or there are a few small parking lots nearby
- Nearest drink: The Red Yeti, a couple of blocks away
Hockeyman’s occupies multiple adjacent storefronts in the same building, with separate entrances. The far, left-hand entrance led us into the retail store, where Ken was organizing inventory. This small area is packed with collectible cards and items. Ken started as a sports card trader, then branched into Magic: the Gathering, Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh, and other trading card games when they appeared. The shop still prominently features sports cards, more than 5,000 boxes of them, and other collectible items. The shop sells candy, chips, and sodas as well. The game room is a few doors down the street. The store’s business cards say “24/7 game room” but you must request in advance to use the game room outside of regular hours.
Finally, at the end of our fifth episode, we have reached one of the oldest and biggest gaming shops in the Louisville area. Why did it take me so long? Probably, my anti-Hoosier bigotry. I really don’t like Indiana. I don’t like any states outside of our Commonwealth, except for those that sell Yuengling. So you can imagine how guilty I felt when the owner of Empire Comics revealed that he smuggles Yuengling from Ohio and stockpiles it for his customers. I learned an important lesson about prejudice.
- Address: 1636 Slate Run Rd
- Website: http://www.cardhaus.com/retail_store
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmpireComics
- History: Established by George Melton 23 years ago; moved down Slate Run Road to the current location in October 1996
- Gaming Area: A total of 9 tables: a small gaming area in the front room with two tables, another connected gaming room with two more tables, and an upstairs area for larger events with five tables
- Crowd: Five gamers playing Magic on a Sunday afternoon
- Parking: 11 parking spaces shared with Mac’s Hideaway, but adjacent to an apartment complex and a small strip mall with more parking
- Nearest drink: The winner! Next door to a dive bar, Mac’s Hideway, and George doesn’t mind if you bring drinks into the shop; in fact, George was drinking when we talked to him: “This is a drinking man’s establishment,” he declared.
I was asking the clerk at the counter some questions when George appeared. George Melton, the owner of Empire Comics, is an imposing middle-aged guy with a gruff voice, waving a big drink cup with a straw. He was suspicious.
“Why are you talking to him instead of to the owner? Why didn’t you make an appointment? We’re busy,” said George.
Within minutes, this hostility evaporated. Maybe Intern Amber charmed him, so I’m glad I brought her to save myself from getting my ass kicked. Or, maybe it’s because his cup was filled with booze, as he soon revealed. At any rate, George became super-friendly and funny, chatting with us for most of an hour.
“This is not really a store for kids” said George, demonstrating his alarm system.
If any young children enter the store, the employee at the checkout counter will trigger a siren and a flashing red light to signal throughout the store for customers to cease their obscene language. A second alarm signals the all-clear, prompting several customers during the demonstration to obligingly shout out F-bombs.
“This is a store for men, but women who can handle it are welcome,” said George. “Our bathroom looks like the set of Saw.”
George’s tour of the store was entertaining but the most significant aspect of Empire Comics is behind the scenes: Cardhaus. Cardhaus is an internet game store, the third-largest game retailer in North America. Empire is the physical storefront for Cardhaus, but the games on the store shelves are less than 2% of the inventory for the combined operation. Until six years ago, Empire was primarily a comic shop that sold a few games and toys on the side and George was worried about how the digitization of print media might make comic shops obsolete in the same way that Amazon.com killed brick-and-mortar book stores. He branched into board games just as the latest board game craze was booming. He put more emphasis on collectible card games, such as Magic: The Gathering, when Wizards of the Coast changed their rules to make it easier to sponsor more local tournaments. Empire hosts smaller Magic events than some other stores, but has more sales. It is the only store with Wizards’ “Advanced Plus” rating in the metro area. In 2012, he purchased Cardhaus and now his online game business dwarfs the physical comic shop storefront.
The physical storefront hosts tournaments for Magic and other card games, board game events, and Dungeons & Dragons: Adventurer’s League. The front room is packed with new comic book displays, back issue boxes, board games, Funko Pop figures, and other collectibles. Empire sells candy, chips, and sodas, and customers are welcome to bring alcohol from the bar next door or from home. George says he trusts his customers not to spill anything on the comics or misbehave, and has never had any problems.
“I’m my own bouncer. I will smash your face if you break the rules,” George said.
I believe him and apparently so do the customers. None of the customers looked frightened but maybe that’s because they are well-behaved; aside from the bad language, ruining the restroom, and hard drinking, but those are all encouraged. Honestly, I would probably become a regular customer of Empire Comics if I lived within staggering distance.
I thought that Empire Comics might be our grand finale but some friends have insisted that I should include Silver Creek Game Shop. Silver Creek Game Shop is even further outside of Louisville and they aren’t open on Sunday, the easiest day for me to visit shops. However, I’ve been shamed into adding it to the list when we did our podcast by Jessie Rasmussin, ever the loyal Hoosier, egged on by Mike, who just likes for me to suffer. Besides, I reasoned, I should visit the new locations for Role of the Die and Parallel Worlds, both of which have moved to new sites since I described them. So it looks like we’ll have another installment after all.
Happy Holidays, Internet!
The Definitive Guide to Gaming Stores in Louisville will be a multi-part series of Nerd Louisville articles until all the gaming stores in Louisville are included. If you’d like your store to be featured next, please contact us! Please send corrections to email@example.com.