Ok, I admit it, owning a successful game store is a LOT of fun. One of the most fun aspects is watching the wild and crazy things that happen in our store – especially in Los Angeles . Here is the story of one of those amazing days.
It was approaching 6:00 pm on Thursday, November 4, 2010. I was about to leave for the day. It had been a long day of preparing Christmas orders as well as handling all of the normal everyday management issues one sees in any retail business. Sales were strong thanks to the release that day of the long-awaited new Dark Eldar Codex for Warhammer 40K. To top it all off, Travis was leaving that night for Las Vegas to get married to Misty. While I was very happy for Travis, I was doomed to receiving a large shipment on Friday without his awesome help. Oh well, weddings trump work, so I was ready for a long Friday.
Little did I know that this was the least of my problems.
Approximately 5:50 pm. The Warmachine crowd was showing up and a number of games were already under way. Travis had just started a battle with Will. In addition, there was a D&D game going on that had started when we opened that morning, plus a group of guys had just started playing Axis & Allies Naval Battles. There were about 20 people in the store at the time, and the crowd was going to get bigger. It was a normal Thursday evening at Game Empire.
So there I was, standing behind the counter waiting for my closer Chris to show up so I could go home and have dinner, when I heard a huge KERRSPLAAAASSSSSHHHHHHH!!!! This was REALLY loud and REALLY startling. It took a split second for me to look towards the sound, and I saw a wall of shattered glass flying into the game room like a wave of water. My mind raced at the speed of light. I immediately thought someone had thrown a rock through the window. Then I realized that a rock was too small, so it must’ve been a bowling ball (yes, I literally thought that). Then I realized that even a bowling ball was too small for this disaster. It must have been a car! “No way”, I thought. “How could a car drive through our window?”
I’ll have two D&D books, a Warjack, a coke, and a side of fries…
I ran from the register and into the game room, and sure enough, it was a car – a silver Honda. I quickly looked around, bracing myself, fully expecting to see a lot of blood, severed limbs, and maybe even dead friends. This was way scary. I saw a lot of broken glass, mangled furniture, the window frames and door bent and smashed on the floor. I heard someone yelling “Are you all right?” over and over. I saw people pulling themselves out of the wreckage. It was definitely a disaster scene.
But no blood. No severed limbs. No dead people. The person yelling “Are you all right?” was yelling at the driver who was still in the car. I quickly realized that – miraculously – no one was seriously hurt. “Thank you God” was all I could think. This was the first miracle.
Once I confirmed that all of the gamers were basically ok, I went to see how the driver was doing. He was an older gentleman (89 years old, he later told me). He was just shaking his head in shock. Clearly, he was embarrassed, ashamed, and thankful that no one appeared to be seriously hurt, all at once. He kept telling me how sorry he was. I told him not to worry about it, no one was hurt. He got out of the car and sat down. I called 911.
After talking to the police and ensuring that everyone was being taken care of, I shifted gears and started thinking about the mess. My first thoughts were “Dang it! With my windows smashed I’ll be here all night guarding the store until I can board it up in the morning. No going home for dinner for me. And double dang it! Travis will be gone tomorrow! This is gonna suck.” Travis then asked if I needed him to go to the hardware store to get wood for the windows. I told him to hang on, I needed to get a better picture about what was happening.
Then the Pasadena Police and Fire Department arrived, and started doing their thing. I quickly explained what happened, and they asked that everyone clear the damaged area. There was glass and metal all over the game room. The crash had blown glass all the way across the store.
Then the next miracle happened. I got a call from some guy named Mario. He said he heard on the police radio that a car had gone through my window and asked if I wanted him to come board it up? He said he could be there within an hour and that it would only cost $350, including materials. I immediately agreed. Ok, maybe I would get to go home that night. Awesome!
Then the next miracle happened. The police asked me a bunch of questions, gave me important information and advice about how to proceed, and were really helpful. The firemen then asked if I wanted them to move the big metal pieces to the garbage. Of course I said yes, and off they went. Those guys took ALL the big pieces of debris out.
The funniest part was watching gamers arrive for an evening playing with their friends. I smiled at seeing the expressions on their faces as they walked in the back door. They stood their, holding their bags of troops and gaming things, open mouthed staring in disbelief at the mess. You could see them trying to digest the situation, and realizing that they weren’t going to get to game that night. Immediately, anyone who had been there during the crash was a mini-celebrity. Everyone made jokes.
- We had the first drive-through window in a game store!
- We now had in-door parking available for our customers!
- The driver was so excited about the new Dark Eldar Codex he forgot to get out of his car before entering the store!
- Travis’ Warcaster popped his feat and summoned a Honda to crush the enemy!
- The D&D players all made their Dexterity checks to dodge the charging Honda Dragon!
This last joke is actually true. In the pictures below you can see that the door ended up on Michael’s chair at the end of the table. How Michael got out of the way I’ll never know. Rafi had climbed up on the table as the car blazed through the window. Mark dove under. The other guys all dived away. Mark was the only casualty, having suffered a cut on his arm from climbing out of the broken glass (thankfully, no stitches were needed). Travis and Will had been playing Warmachine on the table in the upper right. The table in the upper left had been set up for a game, but no one had started playing on it yet (thank God).
People from all over were coming to see the wreck. In fact, the ladies at the nail salon were watching aerial shots of it on the TV news when they realized this was happening only four doors down from the salon!
After a while things settled down. The police and fire department left. The family of the elder gentleman arrived and took him home. But before leaving he explained to me what happened. He was headed to the Vons Pharmacy which was three doors down from Game Empire, and tried to park in front of my store. Somehow he jumped the curb. He panicked and hit the gas instead of the brake. That accelerated him into the tree in front of the store and his car bounced off of it right into our window. The tree had very minor damage.
Finally, Mario showed up and went right to work boarding up the window. My employees and I started cleaning up the glass the best we could. Mario cleaned up the rest. Amazingly, by about 9:45 pm the entire mess was cleaned up. We had lost a display cabinet and most of the items in it, one of the tables was tweaked a bit, there was a rip in the carpet, and the window was boarded up. We were back in action. The tables and chairs were all back in place, and the only sign of the accident was the boarded up window.
News of this event spread quickly through the gaming community. Pictures of the crash went all over the net, and were even published in Knights of the Dinner table #169 . Recently, I met a customer who was from New York and had heard good things about our store. He saw the picture of the crash on our screen saver behind the counter and only then realized that he’d seen that picture on the net months before. He had no idea it was my store when he walked in.
Corrin had the best quote from the event. His girlfriend (now fiancé) told him “It’s just Chuck’s luck that this would happen the night that Travis leaves for Las Vegas.” Corrin said “No, it’s just Chuck’s luck that someone drove their car into his store on a busy game night and no one was seriously hurt.”
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between being lucky and being blessed.
All in all, this was an outstanding experience. No one lost their tempers or reacted badly to the situation. I was very proud of my fellow gamers because they all pitched in to help and immediately knew what to do. The driver of the Honda called me the next day to apologize again, and wanted to thank everyone for being so gracious to him. I am deeply grateful to the police and fire department. My family all came down and were there for me. My employees Travis, Corrin, and Chris all rose to the occasion and did everything that was needed to get past this. Given that no one was seriously hurt, I’m glad we went through this. It was a good bonding experience, and gave us all something to tell our grand kids some day.
I hope you enjoyed this story and the pictures. I have lots more crazy and fun stories about owning a game store, and I’ll write about some of them later. In the mean time, come on down and join the fun!
(Bonus points if you can find the Ghostbusters quote!)