The Belle View Shopping Center will soon be the home to a new hobby and game store. Eagle and Empire Game & Hobby Shop opens Saturday, Oct. 1, to a day of games and giveaways. Patch sat down with owner Doug Ray to get the inside scoop before opening day:
Patch: What made you decide to move your shop to Belle Haven?
Doug: I grew up here. I went to Belle View Elementary School and graduated from Groveton High School. When I was a kid I loved comic books. I’d get on my bike and go down to the 7-Eleven to pick up my favorite comics. I got into a lot of other games and here I am. At one point or another I’ve played each game in my store. I tried in the past to get in this shopping center, and it was full up. But this time the landlord was interested in opening up the hobby store.
Patch: Why are hobbies and games important to our modern society?
Doug: Hobbies are a lot of fun, whether you enjoy railroads, model building, or anything else. It’s something you will do for years, and probably the rest of your life. I want to build the hobbyist of the future. Hobbies have been affected by video games and whatever else, but they are still very popular. I don’t sell video games in my store. Every game I have in here requires a live opponent to play with. People have been stopping by to say how excited they are about the shop opening up. We’ll even have game tables in the back for anyone to play games or build models on.
Patch: How did you get into the hobby business?
Doug: I’ve owned a retail store since 1987 and have had games, hobbies and comic books in my stores. I’ve moved a couple of times. Every time I’ve moved locations 80 to 85 percent of my customers follow me. I’m coming from the Kingstowne/Landsdown area because business isn’t what it used to be. The area has suffered due to the recession. I’ve been waiting for a long time to get into Belle Haven, and I’m excited to be here.
Patch: Who is your average customer?
Doug: I’m very lucky to have a wide variety of customers. I have customers who came in when they were teenagers and come in now with their families to get models or games. I see fathers and sons, senior citizens, teenagers and many in the 35 to 50 range. I spent years trying to appeal to young girls. I tired Hannah Montana, I tried plush toys, but they didn’t work. Finally, I found the rubber duckies. The girls just go after them and grab them by the handfuls. You’ll notice when you come in there is a display right by the door, and they snatch them up.
Patch: What can we look forward to on Saturday?
Doug: Saturday is going to be a lot of fun. There'll be games and giveaways for the kids. We’re giving away a bunch of Halloween ducks, some Hot Wheels, and, of course, comic books. It’ll be fun for everyone, and I look forward to seeing everyone there.