26 December 2022
We chat to Alan, the owner of the newest gaming spot in Manchester, Buzzin' Meeples in Prestwich
Can you tell us a little bit about how the store first got started?
The idea suddenly came to me in September 2021 when I had been advised of potential redundancy from my job - I really wanted a change of career after 36 years working for financial service companies and figured this would be a great opportunity to link work with my main hobby, allowing me to do something I really wanted to in life - while I still had the chance!
I'd set my goal to be in Prestwich as I felt this would be a great location - bringing something new to the area - but I kept my intentions a closely guarded secret, dreading that someone would beat me to it by opening something similar locally.
After taking redundancy in February 2022 it was quite a wait for the right premises but eventually I viewed the former hairdressing salon on 18th July, agreed to the terms straight away, and after putting all the work into getting the store ready, with my partner's assistance, Buzzin' Meeples opened on 12th August!
The store is in a great location right next to Heaton Park and the Heaton Park tram station and is just short walking distance from home - so it was well worth waiting for.
What made you choose the name?
I'm a deep thinker so a lot of thought went into the name back in September 2021.
The Buzzin' bit partly relates to the area - being a much used word in the Manchester area. It also links to the Bee in the logo which was inspired by the Manchester Worker Bee, and describes the atmosphere I aim to create. Meeples gives the store a board game link (after the Carcassonne characters "my people") and to link it all together in a logical way Buzzin' Meeples means: "My people are Buzzin'!"
What’s it like being a FLGS in your area?
Brilliant! For so many local people Buzzin' Meeples is their first time in a FLGS and many have already become regulars - learning new games every time they visit. It's also great to offer something different for people to do locally and visit as families, couples and groups.
I wanted to bring the opportunity to experience Board Games to the local community, and so far that is going very well.
How have you found the gaming scene in the area?
I got involved with the local gaming group 'Decks & Dice' just a few months before Covid! This was great to expand my gaming experience but so frustrating not to be able to meet up during lockdown. They're a great bunch of local gamers, who have been very supportive of Buzzin' Meeples run by the wonderful individual who goes by the name of 'Carpet' - who provided much inspiration for Buzzin' Meeples (often without realising he was!)
So many local people who knew nothing of Decks & Dice have attended the store, sharing of how they developed their love of board games during lockdown, and others have come along to Buzzin' Meeples to extend their board game knowledge beyond Monopoly, Cluedo, Risk & Scrabble!
What do you think makes your store unique?
The personal attention I give to customers - ensuring they have a great experience in Buzzin' Meeples. I offer to teach some of the lower weight and gateway games, to save having to sit and take time to read the rules and I have created evening 'Learn & Play' sessions.
I don't offer a cafe service, just drinks and snacks, but this has always been intentional - to put the focus on the gaming experience rather than the food. I consider Buzzin' Meeples to be a 'Board Game Venue' rather than a store or cafe - with themed areas in our basement - including our very own dungeon!
Our range of games is different to many board game cafés - many of the titles we have are those which are hard to get hold of, Deluxe or Kickstarter editions - and no, I don't currently have a version of Catan in store!
Buzzin' Meeples also provide a flexible Board Game Rental service, which although not unique, is not otherwise available locally.
What titles have you found most popular recently?
7 Wonders Architects, Project L, Can't Stop and Nova Luna have been very popular on the lighter end with Brass Birmingham and Dwellings of Eldervale popular on the heavier side.
Decorum has been very popular with couples - leading to some interesting outcomes and our Carrooka table has also been a big hit - offering something a bit different!
What titles are your personal favourites?
My personal favourites are currently Wonderland's War and Ark Nova - both of which offer great game play experiences, combining so many game play mechanisms that make the games so interesting to me.
What events do you run for the local gaming scene?
I run Learn & Play sessions regularly to provide a full personal tutorial for the game followed by a full playthrough the game with a other players - this has been done for Wingspan, Brass Birmingham, Scythe and Blood Rage so far.
We recently had a great 8 player Counter Attack tournament just prior to Tabletop Gaming Live - which was attended by Colin, the creator of the strategic football board game.
We've even hosted the local Beyblades group!
More events are planned - but it's very early days and my customer base needs to grow before some events can be held.
What’s been your favourite part of running a FLGS so far?
The people! It may sound corny but I've been very pleasantly surprised by the great customers who attend the store (many of which have already become regulars!). It feels like I've known them for years and I love seeing them walk out after their visit with huge smiles on their faces - realising what a great hobby this is!
I'm also very proud of what I've created and I've been very moved by the pride and compliments that those closest to me have expressed.
What’re you most looking forward to?
Getting an income from this? I have a model in place to maximise my takings and plans to bring in additional customers, but in a very small store in times as tight as they are these days, I have to be realistic and accept it's going to take time.
Setting up the business was fully self funded, and I was never expecting the business to be a big earner, but I am already taking in more than my monthly expenses and growing the range provided by Buzzin' Meeples - so after month one I am already ahead of where I expected to be.
What’re your plans for the future?
When I started this business it was never with the intention to be the next Fan Boy 3 - no need - Dave does a great job at what he does (and I must add was a great support with my many questions when setting up Buzzin' Meeples), and I would be very satisfied to keep providing Prestwich with their board gaming needs for years to come.
I still have much to learn but I do have plans for many more events and I'm very keen to find a way to enable an older range of customers to see what board gaming can offer them - to keep their minds active and provide them with a safe, local, social environment to do it in.
Where to find Buzzin' Meeples?
219 Bury Old Road, Prestwich M25 1JF
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