From Black Sheep to Best Business

March 8, 2017 | 3 min to read

Kirwan's Game Store, an Advanced Plus-level store in Catskill, New York, has been in its current location for five years. Now a pillar of their local community and a creator of articles, livestreams, and video content for the Magic community, Steve Kirwan shared some lessons learned from when they started, in an interview with Michael Yichao, as transcribed below:

When I was a kid, I'd always go to the game store. It was a safe place, a community center. I knew I wanted to be that.

So when I decided to open a store, I looked around and did a lot of research on the local area.

Catskill is actually the seat of government for Greene County, and there's lots of folks who travel into town for day-to-day business. There were stores north and south of us, but nothing within a 45-minute radius.

From Black Sheep Store . . .

I didn't know it at the time when I purchased this building, but it had been on the market for four years before I even looked at it. And a lot of the local town didn't appreciate that I was closing a landmark store when I moved in.

I was the black sheep store at first. But I bring (in a rough estimate) about 15,000 people a year to Catskill. I'm in the top five of destination locations in town. I work hard to bring a lot of good for the community.

. . . To Best Small Business

Last year, I won "Small Business of the Year" by Greene County Chamber of Commerce, so I'm starting to see after five years that work bear fruit.

Local residents are now seeing it as a place for their kids to play, and parents know there's wifi and they are also welcome.

It's been a long road educating the community, and educating parents that we're a community and a place where kids can unplug and play face-to-face and socialize.

Also, right across the street we have a community center, and we work with them to exchange events. If they're doing a basketball game, we'd encourage our players to go participate.

Investing in Video and Livestream

When I first opened, Twitch was a new thing. (Can you believe that? Just five years ago, Twitch was brand new.)

Now, Twitch is viewed by millions of people. Facebook Live, YouTube—it's all sticking around. People want to see instant stuff.

I knew streaming was important, because people like seeing live, instantaneous events. How that equaled dollars for my store, I had no idea yet. I was learning as I went along.

We were looking at pieces of technology, just trying things out, and getting good at making content took a lot of hours and attempts to figure out.

Now we do advertising during our streams as one way to generate revenue. Also, by building a following, we are able to promote our store and brand further.

Once I generated more viewers, I was able to monetize and control the types of advertising I did from others as well.

5 Tips for New Retailers

1. Don't race to the bottom. You want to build community, not just attract bargain hunters.

2. Don't become a hoarder. I have a large store; it's easy for me to hoard. Don't do it. Don't be sad if you're out of a product—that means you sold everything, which is generally good. Players will buy stuff at other stores anyway—you can't get them all.

3. Treat everyone equally. Remember folks' names. The little things make folks feel special, and want to come back.

4. Clean your bathrooms! It sounds silly, but clean your bathrooms. Trust me. Even if the rest of your store is a hot mess. Things get busy, shipments arrive, and customers can understand that. If your bathroom is a mess, there's no excuse. It doesn't matter if the rest of your store is spotless, if your bathroom's dirty, the rest of the store is dirty in your customer's mind. It's the little things: it sets the tone.

5. The most important thing to remember: You can't please everybody. Some people will be upset at you just because they're upset.

Store Stats—Kirwan's Game Store

  • Location: Catskill, New York (Population: 11,000)
  • WPN Level: Advanced Plus
  • Age: 5 years
  • Size: 20,000 sq. ft.
  • Website: kirwansgamestore.com

By Steve Kirwan, owner, Kirwan's Game Store

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