Odyssey Games creates space for table-top game lovers

This Kalamazoo store's niche is Magic -- selling Magic to customers who regularly compete in Magic battles, and who form a Magic community.

Odyssey Games' biggest-seller is Magic: The Gathering, the trading card game that's a mix of poker, chess and Dungeons and Dragons. They also sell Star Wars X-Wing, a game of dogfighting miniatures from Lucas' universe; various Warhammer-style miniatures, and a variety of boardgames.

Odyssey Games has tables and chairs taking up valuable merchandise space -- but for the store, the community that battles upon those tables is as valuable as the cards and game pieces.

This has been co-owners Johnny Blaze and Elliot Parkhurst's most successful year since the store opened in 2012. "More and more people continue to get into Magic. Most of our eggs are in that basket. It's paying off," co-owner Blaze says.

On the east side of Western Michigan University's campus, the old storefront used to be a video game store, then a cafe/performance space, and many other shops catering to students. Student clientele comes and goes with the university's schedule, "but even during the summer we do alright. A lot of our crowd is local," Blaze says.

Odyssey has grown to the point where they're shopping around for a larger location. They hope to move as soon as they've found a spot. "We're going to be spinning our wheels if we stay here forever," Blaze says.
Odyssey Games
1504 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo

They're filling a specific gamer niche. Table-top games are growing in popularity with Millennials, he says. But this has led to "bigger businesses encroaching on the niches... When I go to Barnes & Noble and see the stuff that they weren't selling five years ago, that I'm trying to sell, it's disheartening."

Players can also find cards and miniatures in local comic shops and on the Web, and play in their basements with friends. Blaze and Parkhurst would encourage them to buy local at Odyssey, since money spent at the store goes into a community they're trying to foster.

Odyssey holds regular tournaments of Magic and other games. For some, players have to pay admission to play for prizes, others are free with smaller winnings.

"Magic would not be the same game that it is if everybody just played at home with their friends," Blaze says. "We have a great community, we love our regulars... we're doing this as much for them as we're doing it for us."

It's the gamers who play in the store "who keep us in business," Parkhurst adds. "If you had to pinpoint what our niche is, it's running events in a brick and mortar store. The peripherals, the accessories and cards are great, but the whole point of this business is having a place where we can host events for people to come and gather and play."

Writer: Mark Wedel, Second Wave Media
Sources: Johnny Blaze, Elliot Parkhurst, Odyssey Games

Game tournaments announced here