Old School here to introduce you to a place I already consider the best game store I have ever been to: Dropzone Games! This store made me feel at home as soon as I walked in between the amazing customer service, the incredible painting stations and the great assortment of game tables and gaming memorabilia on the walls. I felt like I had walked into Adepticon, but on a smaller scale.
The following article contains tons of pictures from the store, my thoughts and information straight from one of the founders, Tom Gruhala (who provided the amazing customer service mentioned above).
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the article, I will turn the article over to Tom, to explain the origins of Dropzone Games:
My partners and I all got our starts in the gaming industry working for Games Workshop (GW) in various capacities over the years. I spent the majority of my 10 years working in the retail end of the biz where Dan's focus was trade sales and as for the third member of our little band Terry was in charge of finding new locations for GW to place stores.
The germination of the Dropzone Idea actually came from conversations Dan and I had been having for a few months while involved in another business venture. You can't get more than two old GW guys together for more than 5 minutes before a "Do you remember when..." conversations will start. After a few of these, Dan posed the follow up question I most wanted to hear "What would you do differently if you had your own shop?" So I told him and a few days later I had drafted a business plan that he looked over and about 96hrs later he came back with "Well, Let's do it"..... Then when the legwork began of locating a site we contacted Terry and our 9 month journey into the wilds of commercial real estate began (that's a whole different story entirely)
As soon as I walked into the store, I was blown away by the open space. There were plenty of tables, plenty of stock and a ton of painting stations. When we walked around the tables, people were playing any and every wargame system you can imagine. We walked past people playing Dust Warfare, Warmachine, 40k and Fantasy on some nice tables.
Here is more from Tom on the tables and upcoming events:
We currently offer a total of 12 tables in the shop....8 4X6's and 4 4X8's
The event schedule is still taking form but we will have our first campaigns and game nights beginning in the first week in July.
People are genuinely stoked about the freedom to play whatever game they want.... It's the first step they take in "removing the hobby blinders" and get back to enjoying their version of the toy soldier hobby...whatever form that takes.
Next, I looked over and was blown away by how many people were using the paint stations. There was some serious hobbying being done here and the quality of the actual paint stations themselves was great. Here is what Tom had to say about the paint stations:
The paint stations were absolute must when we conceived the store. We always like the idea of providing a social environment for the painting and building as well as during gameplay. In addition, in other shops people feel like theyre being punished for hobbying by being forced to sit on hard stools and inadequate lighting. So we went out of our way to ensure that we make all he parts of the hobby experience as much fun as we can.
The only rules we have for the paint stations are: a) only sitting there if you are hobbying...i have tables and chairs in the back if you want to work on army lists, eat lunch or goob out with your buddies. b) please clean up after yourself c) enjoy yourself and relax
The next place Wolfson and I walked through was the stock isles. As expected, there is plenty of 40k and Fantasy stock, but also on the shelves was Scibor, Kromlech and several other game systems on the walls as well.
The paint area is pretty standard. On the other side of the shelf in this picture, though is another display featuring Army Painter colors and more.
What really impressed me here was the fact that I could grab pretty much any third party conversion piece here I needed, along with a supply of Forge World models. I normally would have to buy anything in this display online and then wait for it. Here, I have the dangerous opportunity to impulse buy exactly the parts I need or want!
Here is what Tom had to say about the stock section:
We currently stock mainline product from GW, Privateer Press, Warlord Games, Dust Warfare, Mantic Games and a ton of the upgrade resin and metal kits from SCIBOR, MAX MINI, KROMLECH, MICRO ARTS STUDIO and about a half dozen more.... OOur plan is to carry what we can fit in our cases and on our walls and make accessible everything else through special order. That being said our biggest enemy is out of stocks and back orders...so in this early form we just ask everyone to be patient as we grow our ranges.
It's also worth noting that I this is where I plan to buy my next Battlefoam bag!
One of the other really great things about the store is just the atmosphere provided by some of the decorations, including banners, posters and of course, a life-sized Blood Angel!
I had to ask Tom where he and his partners got some of this stuff. Here is what he had to say:
As for the banners and the Space Marine in the corner... That's a series of excellent contacts and a bit of luck. The Marine actually belonged to Terry (won it in a contest while still with GW) and the banners are done by Jawaballs (a great artist Terry met on the Tournament circuit). The other artwork is a collection of movie posters from films we all use as inspiration when we're hobbying (except Terry's fascination with "A Knights Tale"...I just couldn't do it.) We also have a ton of signed artwork that has be acquired all over the place and a few more artifacts that will be rolled out periodically for a cool "Hey, was that there before?" moment.
Before I end this article with pictures of the display cases (great stuff from very talented local artists), I want to help promote what the store is doing for the 6th Edition Release. Here is Tom with more info on the release:
The 6th edition release is a bit of a conundrum for us.... How to ensure the customer gets the maximum bang for the buck with the $75 price point on the main book... So we commissioned a scenic display base 100mmX150mm that is sculpted to look like a dark angel temple floor with 5 removable bases seated in it. we are going to release it later this year as the first in our own "Dropzone" branded items at a $45 price. But everyone who pre-orders the book (Friday 22june thru Sunday 24 june) through us will get one for free. We originally had an alternate "defiled" temple in the works but just couldn't get it produced in time so it will have to wait until later this year.
I'm just grateful to the community for welcoming us back and looking forward to another decade of throwing dice and playing with toy soldiers!
Here is a photo of the non-defiled base from the store's Facebook page:
For the most up-to-date info on Drop Zone and to stay connected to what is going on at the store, "like" their Facebook page or check out the Dropzone Games Website! Also, feel free to stop by the store itself at 6711 Baymeadow Dr. Gen Burnie, Md. The hours are Mon thru Fri 12-8PM, Saturdays 10am-10pm and Sundays 12-6PM.
I really appreciate everything this store is doing right now and I think it has a great message and a great atmosphere for anybody associated with toy soldiers. Here are those photos I promised you. Click on them to enlarge the image. There is some great work on these shelves!