By Zachary Flynn
One north Edmonton shop owner is forced to watch his game store sit empty due to new mandatory health restrictions put in place by the Alberta Government in November.
“I’d rather have the lockdown happen now than have a month of [these restrictions], and then be forced into a lockdown,” said Shawn Ford, who has been the owner and operator of Gamer’s Den since 2018.
Ford said that the pandemic has already drastically reduced his sales, but prior to the new restrictions, he was still able to host game nights which drive the bulk of his sales through impulse purchases.
“We sell Magic: the Gathering singles and those are usually a big part of our profit. That’s why we like to have people come in and play. They learn a new game and they love it so they buy a new twenty dollar starter deck, for example,” he said.
“Most of the time now, people call ahead to see if what they’re looking for is here.”
Ford would open his store each night for free, allowing people of all ages to come in and enjoy games ranging from Magic: the Gathering, Warhammer, Warmachine and others.
“On a weeknight [pre-COVID], we could have anywhere from 10-15 people per day playing some type of game. Fridays were always the busiest when our Friday night Magic happens. We could have upwards of 30 people,” said Ford. “Instead of 25-30 people now, we were looking at 8-15 at most.”
Ford said that with the new restrictions leaving his store unable to host game nights, his life wouldn’t be much different should the government impose a hard lockdown.
“Honestly, this is pretty much being locked down. The only difference is that I’m here instead of somewhere else,” he said.
And for a business like his where they operate as a community space on top of being a store, it has been difficult to qualify for federal assistance.
“I think we were able to qualify for one month of [federal aid] this year. I’d have to completely shut down,” said Ford, who has been working solo at the store since March when he was forced to lay off his other two staff members.
But while the company is able to make enough to keep afloat, it’s an unsettling place to be.
“All it takes is one little setback and you could shut down – and that could be for any store. Thankfully we’ve been jumping over those hurdles when they come but there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll make it every time,” he said.
Ford hopes that a hard lockdown could curb the virus, flattening the curve much like the province did in May. With community engagement and game night a large part of his business, Ford hopes to see people back in his store soon enjoying the games they love.
“I like having people coming in to play. Even if they don’t spend a dime here, I would love to see people come in and play. People having fun is always a good thing to have, especially recently.”