2015 In Review
2015 was our first year in business. While we didn't have floors until February, and didn't have our Grand Opening until March, we had been hard at work on the business for several months before then, making plans, signing contracts, hiring folks, and generally getting things up and running. With 2015 behind us, we wanted to review some of the big milestones we accomplished beyond just “opening our doors, and keeping them open” (which really, is pretty cool all by itself).
In 2015 we said “Hello” and then “Good-Bye” to Chance, Riley, Catrina, and Cam, as they joined our team in the our early days, and then went off to pursue new adventures.
We also said “Hello” to Cody, Bryce, Chris, and Tyler, and these four fine young men are our Crew going into 2016. We really can't thank them enough for all they do for the shoppe.
We opened our doors worrying if we would have enough stock to keep the shelves looking full. Since then, we've added additional slat wall, brought in book shelves and additional merchandise racks, and had to move some of our product off-site as our product portfolio grows.
Over the year we've added several new lines, many of them fairly unique to our store. We were the first store in Georgia (and the second in the US) to bring in Guild Ball, We're one of only a handful of stores in the state to stock mats from Frontline Gaming, and one of only three in the US to stock mats from Deep-Cut Studios. We're also one of the few places around to stock products from Elderwood (awesome “Hex Chest” dice boxes), Norse Foundry (fantastic metal and gemstone dice and coins), Games and Gear (a great line of natural and synthetic brushes), Rare Elements Foundry (beautiful gaming coins), and several other hard-to-find products.
We've continued to expand our board game section and stock north of 1,000 different board game titles and expansions, from publishers ranging from AEG to Z-Man. Our most recent addition is to bring in the Zoch Verlag line of products, which includes a host of cool dexterity games. Our demo library has also grown to over 280 unique games.
We're also pretty sure we have the largest collection of loose Meeples in the South East, but we can't verify that.
We started with four small black tables, eight large tables, and a total of 32 seats. As we enter 2016, we've added two additional black tables, as well as two new convertible large format tables – they're 3×8 feet that make them better suited for card games (seating six to a table), but have a drop on top we can use to convert both of them to our standard 4×8 full-sized tables when needed. We've also added more stools for the larger tables, bringing our current seating capacity up to 68. And that's with plenty of room for folks to walk around, observe, shop, and just generally enjoy the shop without feeling overly cramped.
We've even got a custom-built “bridge” board that allows us to join two large tables together to create a larger tablescape for Apocalypse level games.
Over the year, we've met a lot of great customers, and many of them have made Meeple Madness one of their regular hang-outs. One of our customer coordinated the creation of a BSA Venture Crew that is now based in our store. Another has helped make our shoppe a Home School Hangout on Friday afternoons. We've had folks launch RPG Campaigns, help us paint up models for demo and display in the store, and help organize everything from terrain to Dice Masters singles while they're spending time with us. When the tenants above us had a slight mishap with a squirt gun party, our customers were side-by-side with our staffers, helping to get the water under control. Even our latest in-store reorganization was done with consideration for the many suggestions given to us by customers throughout the year, and several folks were always around, helping our staffers move and organize the products as we prepared for the holiday season.
A lot happened in 2015, and we're grateful for all of it – all the stuff above, all the stuff we forgot to mention, and all the stuff that seemed like a pain-in-the-patootie at the time, but helped us learn about the business and evolve the store.
What's Ahead in 2016
As we look back, there are a few things we would have done differently, and we're hoping to tackle those things in 2016, to make the store experience even better.
For starters, we're going to be launching a monthly email newsletter in January or February. While the many of our customers are comfortable with Facebook as our primary information channel, we've had several requests over the year for an opt-in, never spammy, informational email newsletter for folks that aren't on Facebook regularly. This Newsletter will mainly focus on upcoming events and other activities in the store, so folks can keep up with our calendar without having to check into Facebook.
In terms of store hours, we're exploring a couple of tweaks to our schedule. One that we have already implemented is that, in 2016, we'll actually close earlier on Christmas Eve. We watched the activity in the store carefully this year, and we feel a 6:00PM is more sensible. We stayed open until 10pm this year, to see what it would be like, but ended up sending the Staffers home early while we (Priya and David) played games and watched TV for the rest of the evening.
Beyond that slight reduction in hours, everything else we're looking at doing involved increasing store hours, not decreasing them. We'll be discussing these options with our Staffers in the coming weeks, and hope to have some formal announcements soon.
In 2016, we will be taking more deliberate steps to reach out to the local community, and share our love for gaming with those who might not be familiar with the hobbies. Our staffer, Chris, will be leading this charge. He'll be coordinating and hosting off-site events at local libraries and other community centers in 2016. His hours in the store will remain largely unchanged, so you'll still see him regularly. We're expanding his hours to branch out into this new activity for the store.
We're also going to be working more closely with our Venture Crew to try to help shape some service projects and activities in 2016. We're not quite sure what this will look like yet, but they're a great group of kids, and we're looking forward to getting to work more closely with them.
We're not exactly sure what it's going to look like, but in 2015, the number one complaint we received was that customers weren't sure who was working at any given time of day. This is partially caused by the fact that our Staffers enjoy hanging out at our store even when they're not working. It's also exacerbated by the fact that everyone in our store is very helpful, and very polite. So, we often have some of our “Regulars” helping new arrivals, and they get mistaken for Staff.
To that end, our goal is to come up with a new Staff Shirt or other type of “branding” that our Staffers will wear on their shifts, so everyone knows who's doing what.
More Organized Play Opportunities
Whether it's a Ticket To Ride event, or more X-Wing Tournaments, we'll be making sure we have more organized play opportunities available in our store. As always, we'll balance this to ensure we have space of Open Gaming so folks who just want to come in and hang out will always be welcome to do so.
In Closing. . .
Beyond everything mentioned above, we'll continue to listen to our customers, and take every suggestion to heart, and see if we can incorporate it effectively into what makes us Meeple Madness. We won't be able to do everything for everyone, but we've taken a lot of great advice over the past year, and we intend to continue that into the future.
With that in mind, if you've got a suggestion, feel free to let us know!