With a growing business that he started in 2011, Ken Oswald, owner of Excelsior Enterprises Inc., Hoover’s only comic book and gaming store, says they were ready to expand to a larger location to accommodate their customers. In January, Excelsior reopened with a game night open house at their new location, 3412 Lorna Lane. The spacious venue gives the comic king the space to implement many ideas that really required a larger space. Ken says as they made their journey through the years in the comic and gaming business, these ideas kept coming and evolving.
What does your new location offer customers that your previous location did not?
Our new location is testing a whole new market idea for this area: Game Space Rental. You can now game at Excelsior 24/7 by subscribing to our Private Game Area or just by coming in and purchasing time. We are also building a “Check Out” library of gaming goods allowing folk to take accessories, or even entire games, into our gaming area. In addition, we are trying out secondary market retail items, buying used games and accessories from the public to offer our customers these at a great price.
What are the current trends in comics and gaming, and what are the staple classics that you see at your store?
Our industry is constantly changing, but it makes it kind of fun. Comics now come out more frequently with a number of low cost variant cover options. Most of DC and Marvel’s titles come out every two weeks now instead of every month. Some titles even run weekly for a couple months at a time. Science fiction and fantasy themes, even fable or fairy tale kinds of motifs, are growing in popularity, but superheroes aren’t going anywhere. Their popularity in television in movies make these some of the strongest titles out there.
Pen and Paper Role-Playing Games, also called just RPGs, are going through the strongest changes since their inception some 44 years ago. The variety of RPGs is the strongest it’s ever been, offering a game experience to fit nearly any taste. From classic fantasy dungeon crawls like Dungeons & Dragons, to genre-bending, protagonist altering options like Blades in the Dark, where you play as a member of a roguish gang running a street racket in a ghost haunted urban city. You can be the hero in the new Star Wars movies, or a housewife in suburban California looking to bring down a corrupt lawyer. You think it, you can do it in modern RPGs.
Board games are still evolving too, with premium, high quality offerings still reaching for new heights. But even with all the excitement of high-end board gaming, longtime best sellers like Munchkin (technically a card game, but often thought of as in the board game family), Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, Ticket to Ride and Pandemic are still going strong and are often recommended to introduce new people into the board gaming hobby.
Table Top warfare games are undergoing a move to more rules light, fast play options. Classic Table Top staples, like Warhammer 40k and even historic warfare games, are making themselves easier for players to get into the hobby.
How do you hope your shop benefits the city of Hoover?
There are some amazing movements going on in “geekdome” right now. Being a comic or gaming fan is more mainstream today. The people of Hoover and surrounding areas are really engaging this culture, but it’s hard to just walk in a traditional retail establishment and talk to people that understand this movement. People want to know everything there is to these passionate pursuits. Traditional retail still isn’t quite there yet. This is where Excelsior steps in. We know this culture and can direct and inform the community how to get more involved in it.
What is one thing the city could do to help small business owners such as yourself?
Don’t lose touch with us. Small business is such a challenge with more and more consideration and policy favoring bigger and bigger business. Know what small business really is and know our struggles. Don’t let bigger businesses and political special interest tell you what we are or should be. The price of small business is not small.
How will your new location help to bring in new customers?
Excelsior’s new location will provide its customers with 5,000 square feet of space, compared to just 3,100 square feet at our old location, making a it a more enjoyable place to partake in their favorite hobbies. It is filled with a mix of the newest games and comics as well as the classics people love. We also regularly host meet-ups and events to introduce the latest and greatest games.
If you are interested in checking out gaming or comics, we’ll get you started; just come in and talk to us. Whether it’s role-playing games, collectible card games, board games, Table Top warfare, superheroes, Star Wars – come to us and find out what’s available and we’ll show you where to begin your journey.