I moved to a new neighborhood towards the end of 2012. It’s the kind of neighborhood – rare today – where most people know or know of one another, many socialize together, and packs of children roam from house to house on weekends. When people come into our living area in our home, many notice my collection of boardgames, and many offer a comment. (If they realized I have about 1/10th of my collection visible, they’d comment differently, I’m sure.) More than once during the first few months I was in town, neighbors suggested that I meet this guy who lives a few blocks away, because “he’s into boardgames as much as you are.”
In twenty years of playing ‘designer’ boardgames, I’ve heard this comment enough to be a little skeptical when someone claims to be ‘into it’ like me: both because (a) it’s unclear whether or not ‘they’ distinguish between “Bananagrams” and “Die Macher”, and (b) I’m pretty ‘into’ it, spending as much time as I can spare either reading about game titles, listening to podcasts about them, reading the rules, or playing them with friends and family. (It just gives me joy, what can I say?)
So, suffice it to say that when I knocked on Alex’ door for the first time, I was looking at my watch, questioning whether my time would have been better spent perusing the rules to an “Alhambra” expansion.
It would not have been better spent that way.
Upon entering, I was met by Alex, who said ‘Lots of folks told me I should meet you, too,” and – before he said hello, as I recall – he mentioned that “You should know I’m a little compulsive.”
“How so?” I inquired.
“Come downstairs,” he beckoned, with the jaded certainty of one grown accustomed to administering “shock and awe.”
When I got to the bottom of the stairs to his smallish basement, I realized what every visitor up to that point had noticed: more boardgames were sitting in front of me than I’d ever seen in one place (except perhaps for a certain game retailer I’d seen, but I’m not so sure). They were neatly stacked on shelving which barely allowed one to walk over to his ‘command center’-type desktop and greet him.
“Nice collection,” I offered: “How many titles are here?”
“Sixteen hundred, give or take.”
Now, I’ve seen and read about many such collections – many of them larger (and have in my entrepreneurial career built a business that stores large quantities of physical items for companies) – so, frankly, I wasn’t as “shocked” by the volumes in front of me as a non-gamer might have been. Also, being at least passingly familiar with virtually every game in front of me, I was at that moment the proverbial ‘kid in the candy store,’ more like a guy who opens the door to a surprise birthday party to see 1600 friends there – and I wanted to shake every one of their hands.
“So” I explained, wanting at least to establish my bona fides (however meager by comparison), “I’ve been collecting for about 20 years, and think I have five- or six-hundred titles.”
“Yeah,” my instant new pal responded, “but I’ve collected these in about 12 months.”
….giving me an instant glimmer into what a compulsive boardgame collector is like.
Alex then explained that he’d grown his collection with virtually no cash, and he drew my deep interest. As he proceeded to demonstrate a very deep knowledge of the value (dollar value) of the different games on his shelves, he painted a picture of value creation for me that I instantly recognized as ‘a business’.
“I don’t suppose you need any more space?” I inquired.
He and his wife (who’d joined us by that time) looked at each other with knowing glances, and he responded, “Why do you ask?”
“Well,” I said, “two reasons:
Number one, I’m speaking to your wife, as you guys have a toddler, and infant, and are pregnant with number three, and this house contains more choking hazards in it than many entire cities….and
Number two, besides harboring a decades-long abiding passion for boardgames, I operate a high-security warehousing and logistics operation with virtually unlimited storage.”
And Boardgameco bloomed.