Play N Trade 2930 W. Cary Street
So far on this wonderful gait of Richmond we’ve seen businesses operating in totally different spheres and kingdoms. Let’s see: crafts, music, and food. Now onto gaming in the RVA.
This time we met with Bob at Play N Trade (PNT) near The Byrd Theatre in the ever-transforming and favored, Carytown.
Even after this single insightful visit with Bob, there is much to learn about the world of video gaming, but he has given us a moment to explore Richmond’s gaming culture and how his shop in Carytown has come to be in the canon of gaming retail.
Gameplay, The Business
While I have a dwarf understanding of what a franchise is, it prematurely connotes to me a lack of creativity in the business sense. When I started this quest at Play N Trade I assumed that a local Richmond dude had thought of the functional business platform, brand, and logo for this business. Nope. It’s all franchised – but, in all fairness I learned some lessons. They are to never make assumptions and maybe do the homework. And ask questions.
Play N Trade the Franchise: Bob enjoys laying it out for me. What this essentially means is that a business owner is adopting “tried and true procedures” with a name and platform not created by the owner. So, guidelines, Point of Sale (POS), furniture and fixtures, and training are what have attracted him to this option. What happens from there on is his decision, he tells me, while we sit in the back office which is clustered with gaming consoles – new ones and old, and lots of new merchandise for him and his guests to play with.
Don’t Offer Service
Play N Trade Carytown has been in the area for almost 4 years and because of its uniqueness it seems to have a long future ahead for it in Richmond. So, what’s so unique about Play N Trade? It’s not the excellent service Bob and his team so fervently strive for (and we’ll get more into this later), as much as what they offer their guests. Nostalgia.
If you notice the nearby GameStop stores they don’t buy or sell any Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, Sega, Original Xbox, Atari, and PlayStation games – what most of the gamers today grew up playing. Most gamers now are in their mid-20’s to late 30’s. The other stores simply help you out by sending you to Play N Trade. And as a way of showing their gratitude Play N Trade will give GameStop employees with their employee I.D. a 10% discount when they shop at Play N Trade.
Because retro gaming seems to be such a great piece of RVA’s market Bob wants to use that to make gaming accessible and create a sense of community. The focus is catering to seasoned gaming individuals and to the family format making retro gaming inexpensive. You see, new games can cost up to $60, which is an expensive commitment nobody is certain to enjoy. So, guests can bring in their games, consoles, and accessories after they have enjoyed it to trade them for store credit so others can also experience the fun.
To create that sense of community the sales floor is configured to be bright, fun and comfortable for players to experience ANY game on hand – “try before you buy”. A plus for Carytown grazers there are chairs for them to chill out while their partners play and trade. Play N Trade really brings people together with the many events, tournaments, and parties they throw right out of the storefront. Most recently the N64 Goldeneye FLASHBACK TOURNAMENT for a low cost of $5, which included pizza and prizes. Like them and keep an eye out for more events on their Facebook news feed.
A Little About Bob
Like Jay from the installment, “Deep Groove’s Sound”, Bob is not a native to the Richmond and still – I’ll say it again – that does not make him any less of a Richmonder. Originally from Huntington in Long island, New York, Bob was here visiting some friends in 1977 and fell in love with the RVA. Three weeks later he quit his job and settled here. “Settled”, not in the sense of giving up, but – he knew what he wanted – and he has been here since.
Bob receives help around the store from Steve, his son, and a few other employees, among them intense gamers themselves. Lollipop Chainsaw anyone? No? Anyway, they understand what Bob’s commitment to service is all about.
Before moving the conversation out to the storefront he reflected on an experience at a well-known department store; that shall not be named, which made quite an impression on him. In his account, everything would be right – the store he liked, the merch he loved, but it dialed down to poor service. While wasting his day away in line along with some other customers at this store, to purchase said merchandise, he noticed some employees fully capable of helping out, but instead, they hung out. The mirth he once had was spoiled. So he left empty handed.
I don’t find many businesses that excel at customer service, but for those who consider it a responsibility make all the difference. Service is something I am noticing that all of the businesses extolled by U2RVA pride themselves on. And it is for that reason I am recognizing them in this format. It is hard work and though it may not be obvious, people appreciate the work and come back for more.
. . .
I thought I’d try to take a risk this time and so I presented Bob with some very personal questions to learn a little more about him. They were tough for him to answer which is understandable. His responses: N64 is his favorite system and, Goldeneye on N64 and Katamari are among his favorite games.