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Friday, August 10, 2012

FLGS Spotlight: The Foundry in Huntsville Alabama

We have heard Steve, Dirty Jon and Luke lament on previous WWPD podcasts about the lack of an FLGS where they live and how they have to travel to The Game Vault to get a true FLGS experience. But what is this FLGS experience of which they speak?  Is the FLGS a rare thing?  Is it nothing but a myth?  Does it exist and is like Sasquatch or Nessie and just realllyreallyreaaaaaaaally hard to find?
To start this journey we need to define a full service FLGS.  The way I see it for a store to be an FLGS it boils down to a 4 key attributes:

- It has to live up to that first word in the name…Friendly.  The staff, the customers, the environment, etc…
- It has to have room to play the games it sells
- It has all the products and extras you will need for your game and has multiple game systems, across multiple genres.
- The “L” for local doesn’t have to mean “just around the corner.”  I take the “local” to mean the store itself is a part of the gaming community(s) it is supporting.  Even if you are an out-of-towner and have to travel to the store, they make you feel like you belong to the group.
When I started playing miniatures in 1985, the local store was only a store front ...  Xeno’s Games in Jacksonville, Florida. They mainly focused on comics, D&D, Warhammer and 40k, Historical Ancients and MicroArmor- though you could special order other items.  In store play was pretty much limited to tabletop games (played a wicked Blood Bowl campaign there).  We mainly played at people’s homes; Frank Zenau (Xeno) opened his garage up to the community and we had many a fine game there.  They were very friendly, sold several different game systems, and established good communities in each game group….but the in store play experience was lacking…and you could only play at Frank’s house which was after the store closed. 

A few years later I wandered into a Games Workshop store in the mid 1990s.  They had space to demo games… which was really cool, but still no place to play full games. They were focused mainly on 2 communities… Warhammer or 40k…and a little Blood Bowl. This was in the heyday of their stores in the states and they were pretty much everywhere, but serviced only a limited segment of the gaming community.  A step in the right direction, but only for a certain set of games.
Warmachine Demo Table at The Foundry
At that point, my gaming career shifted into neutral as the kids were young and I drifted more to the modeling aspect of the hobby and ordered stuff online to paint.  I was always looking at the local gaming scene in the cities I had to travel to for work.  I still did not see a store that met the definition of a full service game store we established above.  They were all slightly different versions of the two examples discussed earlier.

When I moved to Alabama, I REALLY thought I would have to start playing at home again when I “Journeyed Back to the Table” (My Blog) and started playing again.  That’s when I discovered that my local Hobbytown USA, where I got my Flames of War fix, also had room for 2 playing tables.  They had a smattering of terrain we could use as well…I was beside myself!  So I started playing Flames and running demos at the Hobbytown USA and I thought all was good with the world.  I thought I had found it!…. A TRUE Friendly Local Game Store.  The staff was great…they had the game products and all the other extras and space to play.  They were knowledgeable on the games they sold.  It just didn’t really have the full community piece.  It is still a great place to play and they are great supporters of the Flames of War hobby.  But something was still missing.
Then, just last year, a new store opened where I live….The Foundry… I found Sasquatch white whale…and learned what a true full service FLGS really was.  I can safely say..”Yes Virginia, there is a true Full Service FLGS” (You catch the little pun there….huh?  Virginia…Steve and crew are from Virginia…yeah?...get it?  J NM )
Okay, what am I going on about…Lets break it down using the FLGS criteria from above:
- It has to live up to that first word in the name…Friendly.    No doubt about it.  They fit that bill.  EVERY customer is greeted and the staff is always quick to orient newcomers to the store. They are eager to run demos on the systems they sell as well as share terrain making, modeling and painting tips.  More on this with the last criterion.

- It has room to play.  They have 13 tables for board games/card games, 6 open 4x6 gaming tables (and can layout more using the boardgame room), a separate room for Role Players (they need to be separated…. J  it gives them a little privacy), an Xbox and a 50 inch plasma TV that is open to folks waiting for games.  They even have a dedicated space for customers to paint their figs!

Roleplaying Room

Painting Area

Malifaux Village

Mechwarrior Dark Age
- It has all the products and extras you will need for your game and has multiple game systems, across multiple genres.  They deal with 21 primary vendors (GW, Battelfront, Privateer Press, etc...) and 13 third party vendors.  If they don’t have it they can get it…this includes the “off” name brand items (They stock Plastic Soldier Company 15mm World War II).  They have paint and modelling supplies from several different vendors…and they are trying to expand their on hand items every day.

- The “L” for local doesn’t have to mean “just around the corner”… I take the “local” to mean it is a part of the gaming community(s) it is supporting.  This store lives for its gamers.  The staff is actively engaged in each of the games it supports.  From Flames of War to Warmahordes to 40k to Malifaux to boardgames to Magic: The Gathering card game to Legend of the 5 Rings card game.  They have taken an active interest in Flames of War and purchased or created an amazing amount of terrain for its patrons to use.  The same goes for the other systems.  This all serves to make each game community solid.

Desert Table with Wadi/gulley

Skirmish Village


Planets for Space Combat

Flames of War Terrain Part 1

Flames of War Part 2

28-35mm Terrain

More 28-35mm Terrain
So how did this come about?  What makes this such a rare find?  To answer those questions I thought an interview with the store front man/owner, Adrien Broussard (the_foundry on the WWPD forums) would be perfect.

1. When did The Foundry open? 
Adrien:  September 30, 2011.  It was amazing…On opening day we had a line of people stretching over 20m waiting for the store to open.

2. What does the store offer? 
Adrien:  Besides the standards of Flames of War, Warhammer, 40k, Warmahordes, we focus on the Third Party Game/Indy game market.  Spartan games (especially Dystopian Wars), Heavy Gear, Infinity, Heroclix (all ranges) and Malifaux are the leading miniatures games.  In fact, we are the 3rd largest retailer in the US for Malifaux and have a very large Malifaux community that meets weekly.  For boardgames…it runs the Gamut… from the Euros (Carcassonne, Power Grid) to Quarriors, Summoner Wars, Descent…Settlers of Catan…we set up a giant Catan board from time to time. We also are retail points for Magic: The Gathering and Legend of the 5 Rings card games and have huge, growing, communities for these games.

Giant Settlers of Catan Table
3. When did you get the idea for The Foundry?
Adrien:  I had just returned from Iraq and was working a middle management job.  The troubled economy started to hit the company I was with and before I was laid off, I started looking for a job.  My wife had the idea for me to do something crazy and to start the game store that had been my childhood dream.

4. Why did you pick Huntsville, Alabama as the home for The Foundry? 
Adrien: We spent 3 months looking for locations.  We had narrowed the search down to 3 cities, each over 500 miles apart.  Huntsville was the prime choice.  It was the prime target for this type of store and already had a well developed gaming market with the Rocket City Gamers.  We were also familiar with most of these people from the gaming circuit having played with them for 10 plus years.  Also, other gaming stores in the Southeast in general lacked the concept we were trying to put forth.

5. Several times you have mentioned the “gaming community.”  Is this a major part of the store’s philosophy? 
Adrien:  This is a Community Center that sells games.  Every single thing we do tries to focus back on our communities.  Stores focus on selling a product.  Our product happens to be community and’s not just the items on the shelves.  As long as we can effectively sell friendship…a chance to get out and game, a chance to meet new people and socialize… people will buy things. So, we are a little bit backwards from your typical retail store.  That’s why over ¾ of the store is given over to gaming space and the sales floor is compacted off to one side. To help build the community we strive to go at least 50/50 with them on running events. We will schedule tables and buy or build terrain for the event.  Sometimes, it is just easier if the store runs the event… mostly that is for Wizards of the Coast games as they have some strict reporting and judge training requirements. 

6. Where do you want to go from here? 
Adrien:  Well, we’ve been open for almost a year.  We really want to expand our current product range.  Our stock levels are only to about half of what we really want.  Selection is really important.  The customer shouldn’t have to wander around and heaven forbid we have to special order the item for a customer…the item should be in store.  We also want to grow our communities…We just opened an expansion that added 1200 square feet of gaming space that we use for our board/card gamers and roleplayers.  The Heroclix fans have been asking us to run events for them and we just started doing that.  We want to increase our regional exposure and get out to more of the regional conventions and events where we focus on running demos for the various systems and bringing more people into the community.  We also have a YouTube channel (IndRevelations) where we post the various goings on and would like to expand that more with live battle reports.  Lastly we have just entered into a relationship with a sculpting studio and plan to release terrain, gaming aids and bits for different systems starting later this calendar year. Some of the first items are geared for Flames of War.  (SonBae: I have seen some prototypes of the Flames of War terrain they are working on..and all I can give is the “Joe Mezz WOW!” these sculps are really something to behold.)

7.  Last question…What games do you like to play?
Adrien: Flames of War, I have 2 armies….Mid War British LRDG and Late War American TD Company.  I’ve been playing 40k for 17 years so it is a favorite.  After that whatever wont get me in trouble with the community  ;-)  Malifaux is a new favorite as it helps with my gamer ADD.  The small model count means I can paint an army up quick and be playing before the gamer ADD kicks in.

8.  Any final comments?
Adrien:  The only thing I would pass off to other people is if you don’t have a community; get one…and if you can’t get one; make one.

With that I can now rest at ease...put away the trap cameras and end my search...the myth of the elusive FLGS is no more.  If you are in the North Alabama area, make a visit to The Foundry…you won’t be disappointed at all...or...are there more FLGS's out there waiting to be discoverd.  Quick!  Pack the gear and away to the .....FLGS Hunting Mobile? (need a catchier name than that.  I'll work on it.)

Do you have a full-service (partial-service) FLGS where you live?  Check out the forum link below and continue the discussion and brag on your store(s).  That way others can see where these fine establishments are and hopefully visit them in the future. 
SonBae (AKA Jeff Flint) is a long time gamer and painter and runs a blog at Journey Back To The Table where he posts photos of his work, reviews, BatReps and the “Painting Miniatures Declassified” modeling and painting tutorials.
Make sure to Check out The Foundry on Facebook!

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