BENNINGTON -- Keith Carey wanted to create an all-around gaming store, and with Gamer’s Grotto, he has one.
Entering the Grotto, one encounters games familiar to one and all -- checkers, chess, and some novelty variations of classic board games like Monopoly. Come in a little further, and find board games you won’t find elsewhere, miniatures, video games, party games and collectible card games. "Magic the Gathering is the biggest one of them; we do tournaments for Magic," Carey said.
There are tournaments, too, for Warhammer 40K, a miniatures-based game that starts with modeling kits that players assemble and paint before using. "It’s like making your own chess or Monopoly board," Carey said. This summer, the store is offering camps for the miniatures gaming, with someone coming in to teach would-be players about building and painting the characters, as well as playing the games. Carey is open to other "camp" ideas, too.
That’s where the "all around" really comes into play. "I wanted to create an environment gamers can come to, hang out, socialize, while getting what they need for a game," Carey said.
In-store game space allows gamers to come in and rent games by the hour to test them and see if they like them, or bring in a few buddies to play a board game. And if customers come in wanting a game that Carey doesn’t have, he can get it for them.
"We try to focus on the games you can’t get at Wal-Mart, specialty-type stuff" like nontraditional board games Settlers of Catan (several versions) or Carcassone, and card-based games such as Fluxx or Munchkin" (full disclosure: This reporter has played most of those, and strongly recommends them). ... We have tables for casual gamers, so you can get a pick-up going, or bring friends. We have demo copies of some games." First-time gamers can try anything they like at no cost. If gamers play a particular one often, Carey asks for $1 per person to play all afternoon, which supports buying new games.
"We rent out the game space for birthday parties," Carey said, closing off the section for partygoers.
The Grotto does pre-orders for new games, sometimes offering a midnight release for an especially popular one. The store also offers trade-ins on video games, selling both new and used video games, all with the option to trade. TV screens in the gaming area can be rented by the hour, with gamers invited to bring their own or rent games in the store. The TVs can be networked together.
The store has free WiFi, and on a given afternoon, that service may be in use even by people not buying anything. "I wanted to create an environment that’s both a storefront and a casual gamer hangout. People can just come and play," Carey said. "We try to maintain a safe environment for kids," he said, both inside and outside the store.
Used DVDs are available to buy by the hundreds, all at $3 each.
Accessories are everywhere, too -- dice and roleplaying books, boxes for collectible card sets, electronic guitars, modeling tools and paints can all be found.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday -- unless there’s a midnight game release, in which case Carey either stays open until midnight, or reopens at midnight. Parking is available behind the store.
-- Stephanie L. Ryan