New hang-out at Kimball Junction
May 1, 2009
If you can’t beat them, join them. That’s what Craig Johnson did after realizing his two sons, Aaron and Brock, wanted to spend all their money on video games. They also spent a good deal of time hanging out at video game stores.
So Johnson opened his own store at Kimball Junction and now Summit County kids come there to hang out.
Originally from La Jolla, Calif., Johnson and his brother, Clark, with two friends, Don Smith and Mark Elliott, opened Game Hub on Sagewood Drive near Smith’s Food and Drug last month.
Before Game Hub opened, kids (and often their parents) had to drive to Salt Lake City to buy, sell or trade video games. The Kimball Junction store has been such a hit in less than a month, the four owners are already looking to open a second location in Park City, probably in Prospector.
The business plan for stores like these is so solid, Elliott said, they don’t see why they can’t be a national franchise.
Kids come by after school. Moms drop them off while running into the grocery store. Moms come in to buy Wii fitness games. Dads come in to check out Airsoft guns. There’s no demographic that isn’t attracted to cool ways to have fun at home.
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Young people are educated consumers, too. They read game reviews and articles about new consoles. They know what’s hot, Elliott said. In case people want to try something out, Game Hub has demo games and consoles in the store. That was Aaron and Brock’s idea, Elliott said.
The strange thing about the business, though, is that profit margins on new games and systems are actually low, Elliott said. The manufacturers know what will sell well and price accordingly. But gamers are often willing to trade in a handful of old games to get the hottest new ones. That’s where the money comes from.
Used games can be priced at half of new ones, giving customers a deal and allowing the store greater profit margins on resales. Game Hub issues cards holding store credit so customers can save up before making a purchase. It’s a win-win for owners and clients, Elliott explained.
And because checking out games and equipment is fun, people stay for a while. That gave the owners impetus to set out couches and start selling drinks and candy.
He’s already had a mother tell him she prefers buying games at Game Hub to big retailers.
"We’re good with the kids. We’ve created a place for them to be comfortable," he said.
Elliott’s not a gamer himself, but he said he really sees the value in giving young people something to do to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.
Selling Airsoft supplies was also Aaron and Brock’s idea. They’re less bulky and more realistic than paint ball guns. The pellets are less expensive and don’t make as big a mess, Elliott explained.
Games are recession proof, he added. The harder things get, the more families want a diversion.
Next ski season, Game Hub is going to offer package deals for hotels and lodges. People visiting town can order a game system, a few games, a few movies and have everything delivered to their rooms and set up for them, Elliott said.
Aaron Johnson, 14, said he’s loving life.
"I can work here and play games. I can do what I want in this store and I meet a lot of new people," he said.
Konner Zoellner, a friend, said he loves being able to try games and consoles out. So does Chris Chrisenbery. If a game gets mixed reviews, he wants to try it out before making the purchase, he said.