By Marianne Caesar
Located in Lancaster City’s Central Market Mall, gamers and the like can find their home within the retail store War and Pieces. Its conception began with Millersville University Alumnus Kyle Sloka-Frey, in a discussion held with his wife and business partner.“I came home from work one day in spring of 2013 to this glint in his eye – he’d discovered the perfect way to give players the space to un-ironically love their favorite games while also making a living,” says Colleen Speaker, also a Millersville Alumni. “A game store, he explained, where people could feel comfortable playing Magic: the Gathering, Heroclix, Warhammer, and board games without worrying about being judged. Then he just had to work out the logistics, and it could be a reality.”
Working together they opened a shop within Lancaster city, choosing the name based on its cleverness. Two to three months post-opening, business partner Tyler Lloyd joined the effort, and they opened up another branch in Ephrata in August of 2014. Their one-year anniversary was Jan. 24, 2015, and the Lancaster store hosted a “Thank Gods We Made It” Magic: the Gathering Tournament. A humble mention was shared on their Facebook page, in which they showed thanks for customer support.
Rules for the establishment include common sense notions of respect and appropriate language, that the stores are not lounges, and that customers age thirteen and younger require adult supervision.“The purpose of the store is creating a healthy, positive space for people,” says Lloyd, using his role in the business to connect to his career in teaching. Reflecting on his favorite aspects of the job, Lloyd says, “The selfish answer is being able to play games all day. The unselfish answer is helping people make connections, learn something new.” Speaker enjoys seeing customers laugh and when they receive positive feedback from fellow players.
The owners’ backgrounds are diverse, ranging from a bachelor’s degrees in psychology, a graduate degree in education and self-education. In creating a business, Speaker says there is importance in having reliable product distributors after you have general understanding of your business’ purpose. After obtaining a business loan successfully, you must secure your business name with a government requisite form, and research on demographics and locations follows. Upon finalizing lease agreements, “Insurance is compulsory, as are a few government tax forms and registrations. Once the utilities are set up, you’re all set to begin!”
For others interested in business management, some suggested skills include having enough starting capital, understanding time management, customer service, negotiation and planning.
“Make plan A and think about every aspect of that plan that could go wrong. Add a few more,” says Speaker. “After all that preparation, you’ll be ready for anything life throws at you unexpectedly. Remember: nothing winds up as simple as it should be.”
Hopes for the store’s future include possible expansion to gain space for players, though the owners are content with their present locations. An ongoing goal for the store is connecting with larger Magic: the Gathering tournaments, increasing community networking.
“If we keep doing that, the world will continue to grow and connect the community,” says Lloyd. At present, the store carries products including Heroclix, Magic the Gathering, role playing games, video games, DiceMasters Sealed, and comics among others. Hours, weekly, and special events are available on their Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/lancasterwarandpieces), and on their personal website (http://warandpieceslancaster.com).