The television screens have been pulled from the northeast wall, where lengths of coaxial cable now dangle down like a row of dead snakes. The pinball machines are gone. And in the big room, the last group of grown men in hoodies and backpacks gather for the final event — a Super Smash Ultimate tournament that, as far as Joe Scott is concerned, can’t end soon enough.
These are the final hours of Geeksboro, Scott’s geek palace that opened just a few blocks down Lawndale Avenue as a paean to nerd culture: comic books, video games, trivia, old-school board games, Harry Potter, Star Wars, anime, “Dr. Who” and “The Walking Dead.” It was a coffeeshop, sure, but it was always about something more than that.
The vision sustained Scott through seven years and two locations, and now, frankly, it’s kind of bringing him down.
It all happened so fast — a landlord/tenant dispute that escalated over a matter of days — but from the beginning, and despite its noble intentions, Geeksboro has had more problems than Batman has arch enemies. Parking. Cash flow. Occupancy. Just last week, the location of the former coffeeshop caught fire.
And just this morning, Scott realized it was over. He made the announcement on his Facebook page, opened the doors and settled in for one last shift.
“I’m way, way in debt,” Scott says now at the bar. “It’s like if I got a PhD on student loans. In the last seven years I feel like I’ve earned a PhD in hard knocks.
“As a boss,” he continues, “you have to have empathy for people who might not have empathy for you. The higher you are in the company, the lower you are in terms of empathy — you have to understand why they’re trying to do what they do, even when they don’t understand what you’re doing.”
He pauses as the weight of it all settles in.
“All I wanted to do is sell chicken nuggets to nerds,” he says. “Now I’m trying to figure out why the cash register is short.”
It’s cost him nearly everything, not just the money but also his marriage, which ended during the Geeksboro run, and some personal relationships that suffered while he was chasing the dream.
And now there’s nothing left to do but pack up the rest of the TV screens, box up the board games and move on to what’s next.
Rob Hamilton of Greensboro stops by the bar to offer his condolences.
“You want that Tardis?” Scott asks.
“Yeah,” Hamilton says.
Years ago, he gave Scott a Dalek.
“Two, in fact,” Hamilton says. “The gold and then the blue.”
“So I’m giving him a Tardis,” Scott says.
He turns back to Hamilton.
“Just take it,” Scott says. “Get it out of here.”