Alas! There may be dragons

New shop offers area gamers community

Jesse Hollett
Posted 5/18/17

FLEMING ISLAND – Often, the stereotype of hardcore gamers involves solitary confinement, not solidarity. Without like-minded people, though, the competitive muscle eventually atrophies.

A new …

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Alas! There may be dragons

New shop offers area gamers community

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Often, the stereotype of hardcore gamers involves solitary confinement, not solidarity. Without like-minded people, though, the competitive muscle eventually atrophies.

A new video game shop on Fleming Island wants to work out that competitive muscle, and do so in a way that introduces gamers to each other.

Owners Hazel and Michael Bruce opened Emerald Dragon Games on U.S. Highway 17 at the end of April with the hope of bringing a trifecta of card, video and tabletop games together in an atmosphere that encourages players to talk to each other.

“That’s the reason we’re doing all this, just to provide something that we saw a need for,” Hazel said. “We love board games and tabletop games, just as a family…We love just getting together every once and a while putting down the electronics and laughing and sharing stories.”

She and her husband, a Navy first class petty officer, wanted to bring the same dichotomy to the store.

Michael will retire from the Navy in around a year, he said. Back problems have plagued him from years of work, so the store exists in part a way for him to occupy his time after his retirement, but in part, also to help revitalize his love of games growing up.

“We wanted to be able to open up a place that nobody’s ever seen before,” Michael said.

To that end, Michael has written lore for his store around three dragons who remain perpetually locked in combat. His end game is to open up more shops themed around different precious stones and have customers form teams at their home stores for store-to-store competitions.

So, the shop’s entrance is testing the market to see if Michael’s visions for the future are feasible.

In total, the buildout of the shop, previously a phone repair business, ran the owners $100,000, most of which they paid for with loans.

The shelves of the store are stocked with both used and new games that customers can try out before they commit to buying it, as well as board games and tables for customers to bring their own games.

With nothing else like it in the area, Emerald Dragon fills a comfortable niche alongside other specialty shops in the area, shops such as Altered Egos Comics across Orange Park on Madison Avenue near Ridgeview High.

Altered Egos hosts weekly events where customers can play tabletop games and roleplaying games, but for aficionados toward the southern end of the county, the game shop’s more central location opens more pathways for players to collaborate.

Hazel said just as players can come together to form community, so too can the shop with other specialty stores in the area. The shop is currently playing around with ideas that would drive business from Altered Egos to Emerald Dragon Games and vice versa.

As small entertainment businesses come to Clay County, it provides incentives for those from Jacksonville to trek into the county and encourages residents to spend taxable dollars in the county.

Moreover, it helps retain a younger generation of residents.

“It’s essential for us in Clay County to be able to demonstrate that we can attract a younger generation,” said Bill Garrison, executive director of the Clay Economic Development Corp. “If we can retain our younger generation and have entertainment options here, then they don’t have to leave the community for it.”

“If they start going to Jacksonville to be entertained, then next they’re going to move to Jacksonville, and that’s not what we want, we want them to stay right here,” he said.

Along with local tourism officials, the EDC is actively involved in a campaign to bring in businesses from the entertainment sector to set up shop in a county that currently lacks a wealth of community hubs and entertainment meccas.

“This gaming store, as small as it may be, is a piece of that,” Garrison said. “So you have to just keep adding onto it.”

Likewise, Michael and Hazel have their eyes set on expanding their own business into other counties, and, if Michael has his way, across the Eastern seaboard.

“We’re going to be around for a long time to come,” Hazel said.

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