Featured photo: (L-R) Zack Fisher, Sherri McDonald and Steven Ramos are the owners of Dragon’s Hoard, Greensboro’s newest space by and for nerds. (courtesy photo)
Sherri McDonald has a potions guy. And a leather guy. And an anime guy.
In fact, she knows a maker for most any kind of niche nerd subculture. In that way, she, her husband and friend Zack Fisher have become the purveyors of all things geek in Greensboro.
The three opened Dragon’s Hoard, a new hobby shop in the city, in February, and the business has been growing ever since.
“The original idea was for it to be a collectible hobby place,” explains McDonald, who makes 3-D printed figures for the shop. “Then we found that it was more of a gaming collective and then it evolved with the community and the community’s needs.”
McDonald and her husband, Steven Ramos, got into 3-D printing last year, churning out resin and RDF dragons and custom pieces like swords for miniature toys. After they got the hang of it, they started looking for a place to sell their wares and came across a small toy store in the same shopping center as the Food Lion off of West Market Street. When that store eventually had to close, Fisher, who was the realtor for the space, asked the couple if they’d want to open up their own geek shop in its place.
“We put a lot of work into the space,” McDonald explained. “It was a labor of love.”
Now, as the owners of the business, McDonald says they’re working on building a community of local artisans who want to sell their geeky stuff to the community.
“We’re more of a consignment shop,” McDonald says. “We invite other people in the community to showcase their stuff so it’s not just Steven and Sherri and Zack’s stuff.”
Now the shop has everything from miniatures to anime figures to collectible cards to D&D mats and books. Players also gather to play card games and compete in video game tournaments like Super Smash Bros.
“We opened the space so other people could expand their business,” she says. “It’s kind of what we were looking for.”
One of the most popular items in the store has been the new Disney trading card game, Lorcana, which released its first deck in mid August.
“We’re one of the only stores that sells it at MSRP prices,” Fisher says.
A quick search on the internet shows that scalpers have been buying up stock and reselling cards for three to four times the retail price, something that Fisher says goes against their mission as a store.
“We’re one of the only places in the state honoring retail prices,” he says. “We want to be the place that everyone comes to for this new card game.”
On Friday, there will be another release of the Lorcana cards at Dragon’s Hoard, something that Fisher says hopes will bring in more customers. It’s all part of building that loyal base in this area, he says.
“Ultimately you have to have a large family of customers that are going to not only play in the store, but ones that feel so comfortable in your store that they’ll pay an extra couple of dollars to make sure that the store stays there,” he says.
It can be a conundrum for hobby stores like Dragon’s Hoard to stay in business. Oftentimes customers flock to play games and trade cards in-store, but won’t spend enough money to pay rent and keep the lights on.
McDonald and Ramos remember when Geeksboro opened in Greensboro, they’d go all the time to hang out. For years, it was the premiere spot for nerds to hang out, but owner Joe Scott often lamented how difficult it was to keep the business afloat because of the tight margins.
For their business, they hope to keep the community engaged so that they feel a sense of ownership in the store, McDonald says.
“That’s the No. 1 thing we are focusing on, is building community,” she says.
Fisher says that means making both the physical aspects of the store, as well as the invisible vibes of the business, as comfortable for all as possible.
Uncomfortable plastic or metal chairs were replaced with plushier office chairs and there’s couches where people can sit and pass the time.
“We want the store to be welcoming to all people,” Fisher says. “We want kids to feel comfortable, we want the LGBTQ+ community to feel comfortable. Ultimately at the end of the day, if people want to spend their Friday nights here, we want it to be comfortable.”
As a 45-year-old nerd who grew up playing D&D and Magic the Gathering, he is aware of how exclusionary to women and marginalized people many nerd communities were.
“This culture is not celebrated more than it is hidden,” he says. “There’s stuff that every one of us at least has an interest or fascination in…. I think people should be able to be who they want to be sans judgment or fear. And I think we have become more accepting of people and who they are.”
McDonald, who used to frequently go to Dragon Con in Atlanta, one of the largest pop-culture conventions in the world, says she’s excited to create a space by and for nerds in Greensboro.
“The thing we love about the store is when one of our customers says, ‘It’s our store,’” she says. “They take ownership of the store. They use ‘we’ words. That’s what I enjoy seeing most.”
Follow Dragon’s Hoard on Facebook and on their website at dragonshoardnc.com.
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