It took Rob Wood five years, but he finally got the business he wanted.
Wood worked the first six months of last year for Games, Comics, Etc., and on June 28, he bought it. Four days later, Wood changed the name to Nameless City Board Games & Comics LLC.
“Springfield is a weird gaming mecca,” Wood says of his draw to the local industry.
In his time as owner, the already popular Magic game has skyrocketed to eclipse all board games sales. The card-trading fantasy game and accessories now account for roughly 40 percent of sales in the store.
“Magic is just taking over. You can play at such a level you can pay your mortgage with it,” Wood says, noting there are a few locals who have entered the game’s pro tour.
Last year, the business he bought with a self-financed $100,000 recorded $145,000 in sales. He says the current trajectory should bring Nameless City Board Games & Comics’ 2018 sales to $220,000.
Wood chalks up the sales increases with the Magic brand and other products to his efforts building a community around the store’s content.
“In Springfield, you have a very deep and thriving geek culture,” he says, noting his vision for the store as a destination rather than simply a point of purchase. “You’ve got to make the customer feel like they’re more than a wallet with legs. The success of the business is going to follow.”
Comics as community
Nameless City is not Wood’s first business. This segment of the entertainment industry is not his first career, either.
Wood owned Springfield Army Surplus in the mid-1990s. With a criminal justice degree, he had a lengthy stint in law enforcement for Greene County – 12 years as a police officer and six years as a jailer.
Now, he’s working on accounting and English associate degrees at Ozarks Technical Community College.
Wood considers comics as literature.
“I see comics as an introduction to readers or a way to get excited about reading,” Wood says, sitting in his back office, where poetry books by Kafka and Baudelaire adorn the desk. “Comics is a uniquely American art form.”
On his desktop, Wood has a file with nearly 50 items listed, things he wanted to do as owner: increase the demo games shelf and add a vending machine, for example. He says all but about 10 are checked off. Not yet accomplished is getting a sign in the exact shape of the new logo. It features a skyline of Providence, Rhode Island, and there’s a reason: It’s the hometown of H.P. Lovecraft, one of Wood’s favorite authors and whose fiction piece – “The Nameless City” – the store is named after.
Two of the top items were beefing up the inventory for miniature gaming figurines and promoting local graphic artists.
“I wanted to become the Walmart of minis,” he says of the trend of custom-painting the fantasy figurines for games, such as Dungeons & Dragons.
The store’s back wall is evidence. It’s covered with the Dark Heaven Bones line by Reaper Miniatures. They range from $2.50 to $13 apiece.
David Faught is a freelance comic and pinup artist who frequents Nameless City. His works are on display in the store.
Faught worked early on in the industry as a shadow artist drawing the buildings and backgrounds in prints for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. He says that’s where many comic artists start out.
He had an official appearance at Nameless City on Free Comic Book Day. During the May 5 national event, Faught spent over eight hours drawing requested characters on the spot, signing works and selling his $10-$20 pinups. That was in addition to a morning appearance at Vintage Stock.
“My agenda is to push art out in the public,” he says of the new business tie with Nameless City. “If it’s a business venture, cool. If I sell stuff, cool. I just want to get art out there.”
All told, Faught says he’s worked professionally on 20-30 comic book titles, such as DC’s Batman annual and a cover for the Green Hornet series, and he’s independently worked on another dozen comics.
A key accomplishment for Wood was getting tabbed as a flagship store for the Pathfinder Society role-playing game.
Affiliated since June 2017, the store hosts two gaming tables each weekend for Pathfinder open play.
“He always has an open table for us,” says Bill Loescher, a venture lieutenant for the Seattle-based Pathfinder Society. “In the region, Nameless is the main store we play at.”
The RPG group’s international members can play with any characters anywhere, while Loescher says traditional RPGs are more limited to a player’s own character creations.
“Anybody can walk in and say they want to play. They don’t need to bring anything,” he says. “We can make a character onsite for them or they can play pregenerated characters.
“If we don’t have it, Rob’s got it.”
As a flagship store, Nameless City is listed in a database for hosting games, and Loescher says there are no fees exchanged.
“One of our main goals is to keep our friendly local gaming stores active,” he says.
“Without stores like Rob’s, we don’t have a place to play. We really push for players to purchase pieces from the store.”
As incentive, Loescher says buyers receive “boons” in the game play.
Wood’s self-professed favorites are historical war games, which have their own section in the store – as do back-issue comics in boxes, trading cards under glass cabinets and new comics along an entire wall.
He says board games costs on average north of $70 and cards on display run up to $90. More expensive, rare cards are stored in a black book behind the counter.
“Matt, how you doing – you got some trades?” Wood asks a customer looking at cards one afternoon.
They discuss pricing trends and debate their favorites. “Seventeen bucks? A little ridiculous,” Wood continues. “What you gonna do? Are you playing League?”
There’s clearly a known lingo around here. A sign on Wood’s office door reads, “Snibbet Store Room. Computer Planges Only!”
“I really enjoy what I do. It’s a great industry to be in,” he says. “There could be worse businesses to run.”
Where megaretailers abound and more development is coming
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