Ironwood hobby store becomes gathering spot

Ryckie Holm opened his hobby store in Ironwood with the idea of providing a place for local young people to play board games and similar activities. Since then, however, the store has grown into a community space for hobbyists of all ages.
Holm’s Hobby caters to local gaming enthusiasts with table top, board and card games from popular brands such as the Warhammer lines from Games Workshop and "Magic: the Gathering by Hasbro," as well as a variety of other related products.
“I started with two racks full of products; and since then, everything I’ve made I put back in the store because I want Ironwood to have something nice,” Holm said. “For kids, adults, whatever. I wish I had something like this in town when I was growing up.”

Holm opened the store in June 2017, but the idea for the hobby store was born several years earlier in the wake of a health scare.

A high school math teacher, Ryckie Holm opened the store so local kids had a place to hang out.

“In 2015 I had a heart attack so I had a bunch of downtime,” Holm said, explaining he spent time during his recovery looking through things from college when he played Dungeons and Dragons and "Magic: the Gathering." “I started looking through my old stuff while I was kind of house ridden and I found my old Magic cards and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool.’”

Holm said he began playing the games again with his brother. He had started a chess club at the school in neighboring Hurley, Wisconsin, where he teaches high school math, and the members eventually wanted to play a variety of other games too.

“Some of the games were longer games,” Holm said, explaining some were designed to last a couple hours compared to a 30-minute or so game of chess. “Just the amount of time I would have had to stay after school, it just wasn’t feasible.”

He said that the longer games also created conflicts with the students’ other extracurricular activities.

Instead of trying to fit everything in during an after-school club, Holm decided to open Holm’s Hobby.

“I wanted it to be a place where we could play the games outside of the high school,” Holm said. “I didn’t want to just be a store, I wanted it to be kind of a community center – and that’s what it’s evolved into.”

Prior to opening, Holm sought out hobby stores when he traveled and frequently visited some of the closer ones – such as those in Duluth, Minnesota; Houghton, Michigan, and Ashland, Wisconsin.

He said he developed something of a mentor-mentee relationship with the Play Unplugged store in Ashland, Wisconsin, and that they’ve been very generous in offering him advice on the business and helped develop the necessary contacts.

In fact, Holm joked that the relationship was so good that he was almost hesitant to open a store as he didn’t want to compete with them, but he received the necessary blessing from his friend at the Ashland store.

“He was really receptive and he said, ‘The more people who play games, whether it’s Ironwood or anywhere, it’s just going to help the community no matter where you shop.’”

Holm said he doesn’t charge people to use the space to play the games, instead using the sale of the various games to fund the store.

Even though Holm opened the store with kids in mind, he said he’s been surprised by the age range of the customers.

“I get more adults than I ever imagined and less kids than I imagined,” Holm said. “It’s nice, the people that come here are die-hard regulars. They’ll come at least once a week, sometimes three or four nights a week. Sometimes they’ll play a game, sometimes they’ll just come to visit; it’s turned into a meeting place.”

Drawing a mix of experienced gamers and newcomers, Holm said the store draws all types but everyone generally gets along, and he thinks it’s an atmosphere that welcomes newcomers and those from out-of-town.

“I had a new customer come in for the first time two weeks ago and he bought into a game and he’s been in three or four times to play it.” Holm said.

Even if he is drawing more adults than expected, Holm said his goal of providing a safe, positive space for kids to discover various games has been achieved.
“The kids that do come are super grateful for it,” he said.

Holm’s Hobby is located at 235 E. Ayer St. in downtown Ironwood. More information can be found at the Holm’s Hobby Facebook page,
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