June. 2010. Origins weekend. Columbus, Ohio. There’s a new comic shop in town. Not that rare of an origin story, but no one would have ever been able to predict that it would take Columbus and the retail comic world by storm. Now fast forward four years. Currently, Heroes and Games is the most impressive shop in the Greater Columbus Area. This is where most of Columbus satisfies their geek tooth, and for good reason. This isn’t your average local comic shop. This place has it all and does it all. Everything from vintage video games to the most recent trading card phenomenon. From rows and rows of back issues to the latest releases by your favorite publishers. Looking for a little taste of the far east? They’ve got you covered there too. It’s almost like walking into the North Market. Your inner Japanese will be unleashed when you see the shelves of the most popular snacks and drinks. And most importantly, the prices are always fair.
The father/son team of Doug and Cory Simms granted me the ultimate honor of sitting down with them during their very busy schedule, to ask a few questions. While they were setting up for Pulp Fest 2014 no less. You should see the stuff that they acquired for the festival. Really impressive. My wallet almost jumped out of my pocket on its own, or at least that’s what I’m going to tell myself. So let's get to it.
ERIK MCALISTER: How do you go about gaining new customers? What techniques have worked for you the best?
HEROES AND GAMES: The large majority of our customers are convention goers. But when potential customers come in, what grabs them the most is the 20% discount to pull list holders. That’s what really makes them stop in their tracks.
EM: Would you say that your store has a specialty? If so, what would it be?
H&G: If somebody comes in looking for a specific comic, it’s very rare that we’re not able to get it for them. A lot of other shops aren’t interested in doing that. It isn’t always easy, but we’re always willing to do the work. We have so many connections, and we participate in so many cons -- 8 to 10 cons a year.
H&G: We’re about ready to blow the wall down and expand from 900 sq ft to almost 1500 sq ft, and we’re eventually going to be bringing in 3D printing. That will be open to the local artists and the cosplayers. If they want make statues of themselves in their costumes, they’ll now have the ability to do so. The possibilities are really endless there.
EM: I’ve heard that you host Over Power tournaments in your gaming room? That game has been out of print for fifteen years. How did that start, and do you host any other types of trading card tourneys?
H&G: When Over Power was out I played it all the time. I traveled all over and played in tournaments. I made a lot of really good friends through it, and we all kinda stayed in touch. One of the guys that I know decided that he was going to run a tournament in Pennsylvania. Quite a few people showed up and another guy decided to run one in Buffalo. I think that we had about thirteen people show up. Another guy here in Columbus decided that he wanted to run one back home, and we had eighteen people show up for that one. So it’s just kind of a game that the diehard players just love. And they won’t let it die. We also run Hero Clix and Magic: The Gathering tournaments on Fridays, and Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments on Saturdays. We also do Card Fight Vanguard on Tuesdays.
EM: I noticed that you have a kind of father/son team going on here. Tell me a little about that.
H&G: I love it. We spend a lot of time together and it’s something that I’ve always wanted. It’s better than an employee/boss relationship. We communicate really well. He knows my expectations and I know his. It’s a lot of fun.
H&G: It’s really weird how this started. I had been really wanting to do a podcast, but I knew almost nothing about how to do one. One day, these guys were sitting over at the Java Cafe after hours and Cory went up to them and noticed that that was what they were doing. And he said “Why don’t you guys come over and talk to my dad?” They came in and said that they had been doing a podcast for some time. I asked “Why are you guys doing a podcast on a Thursday night, when everything is closed?” They told me that it was the only place that they had available. I offered to let them come in and do it in the store. I offered to keep the store open for them as late as they needed, and here we are. The rest is history. It has just exploded. We seem to be a place where people want to come in and be on the podcast. We even let customers sit in occasionally. You don’t see that ever. We take the guys with us to the bigger cons and promote. We can’t wait to see where it goes eventually.
EM: If there was anything that you’d want to pass on to your current customers in this article, what would that be?
H&G: Come in. You’re going to have fun. If you don’t see something in the store that reminds you of your childhood, you’re still living your childhood. That’s what we try to capture when you walk in. And of course, thank you for your years of patronage.
And there you have it, folks. If you haven’t stepped foot inside Heroes and Games yet, you’re really missing out. There is something in here for everybody. Everyone has that inner child just aching to get out; in here it will be all the easier to let that happen. You’ll come and go with a smile on your face. And you really can’t ask for a better gift than that. The staff is friendly, helpful, and informed. If you are having a hard time finding a piece of your childhood, they’ll help you track it down. Because those things are important. I know that all too well.
Living in today’s society gets hard from time to time. Every once in a while you leave your comfort zone to find that one indescribable thing that will bring it all together. For some of you, it will be revisiting a time from your past, for others it will be bringing something new and exciting into your life, possibly something that you’ve been missing for a long time. Heroes and Games offers both of those opportunities. And when you walk in for the first time these guys are legitimately happy to see you. The popularity of the store is growing and growing, but for more than one reason. It doesn’t just offer basement dwellers a place to mingle with others of their kind, it offers a great environment for kids and kids at heart to feel comfortable with their hobbies. Pretty soon, Geek will be the new black in Columbus. I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks at Heroes and Games led the charge.