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New State College Area Store Offers Hobby Games and an Inviting Place to Play

IGAR Games opened on Jan. 27, 2022 at 1514 Martin Street. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

A recently-opened State College area shop is offering enthusiasts and beginners a new place for hobby-level games.

IGAR Games opened in late January at 1514 Martin Street in Ferguson Township, selling board games, card games, role-playing games and miniature games and providing a comfortable setting to sit and play.

“Our store and stores like us tend to sell the games that are coming from smaller companies,” said Gordon Robinson, who co-owns the store with his partner, Dr. Beth Gerace. “Walmart, you get on their radar, they’re going to look at you and go ‘We need a hundred thousand units because we want to put you in every Walmart across the country.’ The companies we work with are lucky if they have enough money to create ten thousand units of a game. So they can’t really work at that mass-market level; therefore, they’re more niche. But the concepts behind the board games, card games and role playing games most people already know. They just haven’t seen our games because they’re a smaller market.”

Gordon Robinson is co-owner of IGAR Games, 1514 Martin Street, State College. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

Robinson, a Philadelphia native who has lived in Center County since the mid-1990s, and Gerace, a psychology professor at Penn State, decided nearly two years ago to open the store to provide a place to find those games and to offer a “welcoming and inviting” space for customers to hang out and play.

About a quarter of the store is devoted to a lounge area, and Robinson said he hopes that as COVID-19 concerns diminish, more people will spend more time using the space, which includes a small snack area.

“Because they’re not mass market, some of them have a really high price tag and that’s a little off-putting to people who go ‘Oh I can get a copy of Monopoly for $19.99. You want me to buy a copy of Arcadia Quest for $100?’…,” Robinson said. “So we have copies of these games that are ours, demo games that people can come in and play for free, get a feel for the game to understand whether or not it is something they want to invest the money in.”

IGAR Games features a lounge area with a mural by Bellefonte artist Mary Beth Wiseman. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

They also hope to host regular gaming groups and events, though the specifics will be determined as they get a better understanding of audience interests.

“There’s not one set group that handles the entire hobby,” Robinson said. “There’s a decent amount of Magic: The Gathering players here in State College but there are hundreds of other games that we may or may not have an audience for and being that we’re fairly new to the area we’re still trying to determine what the community leans towards. So we’re very much looking forward to doing events but haven’t set up any specific events for specific games because we’re still kind of absorbing what seems to be of interest to the audience.”

He also noted that, of course, IGAR isn’t the only hobby-level game shop in the area. Jake’s Cards and Games in Bellefonte is one longstanding store, and Comic Swap in State College also offers some hobby-level games.

IGAR Games features board, card, role-playing and miniature games. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

Last fall, Master Goblin Games opened at 234 E. College Ave. in State College, specializing in hobby games.

“So there are already established game stores in the area that may already have [certain game groups]Robinson said. “And that’s fine, so we won’t do that. If there is an unserviced area we would love to do it. We just don’t know what they are yet.”

Robinson has worked in sales for most of his adult life and a good part of that has involved managing stores that carry hobby-level games or companies that manufacture them. He had long thought about opening his own store and he and Gerace decided to explore making it a reality in March 2020, just before COVID-19 hit.

“So, worst timing possible,” Robinson said. “There were a couple things that were good about it, in that March when we were deciding about it. It gave us plenty of time to really look at the different things in town that were available in terms of properties and we didn’t feel we were in a huge rush.”

They didn’t know that at the same time Master Goblin’s owners were looking to open their own shop in the area. But with Master Goblin’s location downtown and IGAR’s further away from the Penn State campus, Robinson said he believes they can serve different markets and that the two shops can coexist and thrive.

“We think the ecosystem will support both of us so we wish them nothing but the best,” he said.

IGAR Games is located at 1514 Martin Street, State College. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

It’s also a growing market. Back in the 1990s, hobby games were a “fairly niche” market, Robinson said, but the growth of the Internet and proliferation of social media has made it easier for game makers to expand their audience.

“A lot of these companies, particularly ones from outside of the US have made huge inroads into the market and it’s now, I would say, easily a billion dollar industry when you combine all the different companies that are out there,” Robinson said. “That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. This market has been growing and growing over the course of the last two decades and we’re obviously excited to be a part of that right now. Looking at the sales figures of the companies that are still coming out and new product that is coming out, it’s quite obvious that the industry is growing.”

For Robinson, the shop is about serving a community and hobby he loves. The store’s name is a subtle callout to like-minded enthusiasts.

IGAR is an acronym that stands for “I got a rock,” Charlie Brown’s repeated phrase in “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” as the Peanuts gang compares the goodies they got while trick-or-treating.

The quote adorns one wall in the store.

“Any type of hobby, people who are looking at that from the outside tend to go ‘Wow, they’re a little bit weird.’ And that’s any hobby. That’s knitting. That’s hardcore football fans. That’s coin collectors and stamp collectors,” Robinson said. “From the outside people are like ‘You’re a little bit weird.’ Sometimes that translates into ‘We think you’re weird so we’re going to give you a rock for Halloween.’ It’s more of a rallying call of ‘Hello, fellow weird people. We are weird too. Come to us.”

IGAR is an acronym for “I got a rock,” a Charlie Brown quote that is painted above the front window inside the store. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

IGAR Games opened at what Robinson described as “the worst month of the year” for retail sales: the down period after Christmas and before spending picks back up in the spring. He’s fine with that — they were happy to finally open their doors — but he hopes to have some kind of event to celebrate the opening, possibly later in March.

“We want to build up knowledge that we’re here. We want our customers to begin to find us; it doesn’t matter when we open, we’re going to open,” he said. “But it does make us go ‘Ah, we want to have some type of big event but this would not be month to do it.’ Probably somewhere in March, maybe after the students come back from spring break, we would like to do an actual event, maybe a big sale or what have you, to get customers interested in coming out. … We are already open. It’s not like we’re opening again. So it’s a weird little thing. We don’t really want to call it our ‘grand opening.’”

Right now Robinson and Gerace are the stores only employees, and you’ll usually find Robinson manning the shop. He said they’re developing an understanding of the market, what IGAR’s sales could be and how many hours the store will need to be open — all ultimately determining how much staff they need.

But for Robinson, it doesn’t feel much like work.

“It’s an industry that I love so in comparison to other sales jobs that I’ve had it doesn’t feel like I’m doing nine hours a day six days a week,” he said. “Being surrounded by these games, you just walk around with a smile on your face.”

IGAR Games is open 10 am to 7 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday. For more information, visit the store’s website and Facebook page

IGAR Games co-owner Gordon Robinson can usually be found at the 1514 Martin Street shop six days a week. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

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