Michael Schum owned a Wildwood comic book store for two years before closing it in 1999.
In the interim, he worked at 7-Eleven, an arcade, and as a security guard for the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, but that never appealed to him the way owning a business that incorporated his interests in comics and trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering did.
“It was the time I was the happiest because I’m doing what I like to do,” said Schum, 46, of Lower Township.
In November 2011, Schum and his wife opened Aetherstorm Gaming in the North Cape May section.
The shop sells role-playing games, other games and their accompanying card decks and accessories. There’s also a room for people to play and hosts tournaments where a few dozen players pay to compete against one another.
“I like to say we deal with face-to-face gaming-card games, miniature games, dice role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. And we have a 400-square-foot gaming area where you can actually sit down and play. We’re putting more of the personal contact in gaming so it’s not sitting at a computer typing keys,” he said.
These tournaments are not high-profit events — unlike selling pieces for Warhammer, a table war game that involves miniature figures like tanks, some of which can cost $50 a piece, he said.
But the tournaments represent an important part of keeping customers engaged and competitive within the hobby.
“Tournaments are a big part of the business. One tournament draws a big crowd, and competition is a natural thing in humans. Everybody likes to compete, and you’re actually getting more than if you just buy a $3.99 pack (of Magic cards) plus tax,” he said.
“It’s a place to go, hang out with friends and play a game we all enjoy,” said Robert Ryan, 20, of Cape May, who plays Magic: The Gathering. “A lot of thought goes into it, and you have to be pretty to intelligent to play successfully.”
Ryan estimates he spends $500 to $700 a year on his hobby, including buying cards and entering tournaments.
When Schum started the business, he could rely on a unique group of customers — the people who went to his old store to play Magic would go to his home to play after he closed.
“Most of the people who used
to come to my old store were coming to my house on Tuesday, so I
had a good base,” he said. “And
with my personal finances, I didn’t need to depend on the store completely.”
“I had a different approach because I knew enough people that I already had a base of customers,” he said. “And then I started going to other game shops and talking to them. I found out there were a lot of people in the Cape May area that had to travel 30 miles up the road (to play).”
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