It wasn’t all that long ago that I was reminiscing about Riverview Hobby shop in Bakersfield. It wasn’t a great shop for games, but it was all we had. If you want to read more about that, here’s the link to the post, Game Stores. I love visiting game stores, but honestly, I’m usually disappointed.

A couple of months ago, I was up visiting my in-laws in Fremont, and I decided to take BART into Oakland and visit a game store that I had heard was one of the best, Endgame.

The store is located a couple of blocks from the 12th Street BART station, near the Oakland Convention Center in what I guess must be the Swans building. The original building was built almost a century ago, but I think was renovated around the time that Endgame moved to this location from a previous one in Lakeshore. The space is just gorgeous. I didn’t take any pictures of the interior since they have a great gallery of pics on Picasa.

I had the opportunity to chat a bit with one of the owners, Chris Hanrahan, and we talked for a while about the history of the store and some of their guiding principles. I made a comment regarding the layout of the store and how the merchandise is displayed, and he said that they tried to create a style of presentation similar to a Pottery Barn. How cool is that? A Pottery Barn for gamers. You can actually see all the product. It’s not stacked in corners or crammed into tiny shelves. I also mentioned that I was impressed with the amount of imported stock that they had and he said that was one of the ways they try and set themselves apart from some of the other games stores in the area, that and their commitment to stocking games from small independent press designers. Smart retailers = great game store.

Here are some of the things that I thought really made Endgame special:

  • Each section of the store is easily identified by these great little signs. Now you might say, “Jeff, that’s stupid. What’s the big deal? Can’t you just look around, dork?” You might say that, but I would tell you how much time I spent looking through the crammed dusty shelves in a game store in Burbank for an RPG book and was told by the owner, “It would be over there somewhere.” I enter the RPG area at Endgame and can walk right over to the neatly arranged section for the Savage Worlds RPG and check what’s there. Easy as key lime pie. (Which I just recently tried for the first time, and it’s awesome!)
  • They have a Haba/kids games section that would impress even Mark Jackson. They had a copy of Geisterw√§ldchen that I almost bought but I didn’t because I would have had to carry it around all day. Now I wish I had picked that up. Lazy Jeff!
  • There is a lounge area with big comfy chairs and a place to buy snacks and drinks. Why? Because upstairs there’s a…
  • … giant game loft broken into two sections connected by a short walkway. The larger of the two areas has these giant gaming tables for terrain pieces for miniatures gaming. Check out some of the pics from their Flames of War Megabattle they held in January. The smaller side of the loft area has tables so patrons can try some of the open Eurogames in the store’s game library. All game stores should be like this one, right?
  • They hold regular events like minicons and have special annual events like their anniversary party and Endgame Auction.

Endgame is pretty much everything I want in a game store, too bad it’s over three hours away.