Among the many things affected by the COVID-19 pandemic were hobby gamers and game stores. Plenty of retailers closed up shop or stopped hosting games and events during lockdown, and players either postponed their Dungeons and Dragons campaigns or moved them online. Now that the curve has flattened and gamers are ready to meet, a new store is opening that aims to fill the void left by the lack of playing spaces and to bring players together.
Hero Quest Games first opened three weeks ago at 4620 Bryant Irvin Rd., Ste. 546, just next to the Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods. Co-owner Dometry Wilson describes it as “essentially, a board game and RPG store with a focus on space to play and hang out.”
He and the other owner, girlfriend Ashley Monday, saw a need for a store like theirs as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the hobby store ecosystem. Wilson explained that, during the pandemic, “A lot of game stores moved away from having a play space and haven’t seemed open to it since.”
While plenty of stores are hosting, say, Magic: The Gathering tournaments, Wilson said, “We felt there was a need for a place to comfortably play board games and bring your D&D group.”
Both Wilson and Monday are avid gamers and felt they knew what they wanted to offer. Wilson has been playing D&D since 2018, and Monday has been looking for a place to expand her social circle.
“It’s a way for people to re-socialize and good for awkward people like myself,” she said.
It’s also affordable for people who want a place to play, as tables for gaming are available for free.
The impact of the pandemic had shifted their job goals. Monday said, “I was working at Redfin when it furloughed, and then fired, roughly half its staff, which ended my career.”
After meeting Wilson on Bumble and beginning a relationship, they both found themselves working at Target. However, the retail grind soon got to them. They talked about opening a store like many twentysomethings do but actually pushed forward to accomplish it.
“Ashley asked, ‘Why are we waiting to do what we want to do?’ ” Wilson recalled.
They first opened a small booth at Fanboys Marketplace on Camp Bowie Boulevard in May 2021. Then, after doing some research and acquiring a small business loan, they were ready to expand and found the perfect location on Bryant Irvin.
“It has these great stone archways in the back,” Wilson said, “and we want the place to kind of have a tavern feel.”
Monday sees it as a step up. “I sort of demoted myself to work here,” she said, taking a pay cut to pursue a dream job. And it seems to be working out. “My mental health just got better.”
At the store, people can find everything, from the big games like Dungeons and Dragons to lesser-known RPGs such as Thirsty Sword Lesbians, and from bigger board games like Settlers of Catan to family-friendly games like the cat-themed Calico. The Hero Quest duo also works with a number of local artists selling things like handmade bags, candles, and scented soaps with gaming dice molded into them, as well as framed art, which lines the walls.
And so far, the store seems to be filling the need. A meet-and-greet on Saturday brought in a few dozen customers who could be heard talking about their gaming history and taking the time to make character sheets provided by the staff. Comelia Hinkley of Fort Worth said she came “to meet people to play D&D and board games with. And for a place to Christmas shop.”
And another Fort Worthian, Benjamin Palmer, of Adventure Awaits Studios (AdventureAwaitsStudios.com), who writes adventure campaigns for D&D’s fifth edition, loves the location. “I like poking around and love seeing new shops. It’s the closest store near me, and they have a better selection than most other stores,” he said as he bought miniatures to round out his pirate crew.
For the future, the Hero Quest duo plans to renovate the back of the store into a private gaming area that players can reserve, which Monday believes should be ready in about a month. For now, Monday and Wilson seem content learning more about the games.
“D&D has been around since the ’70s,” Monday said. “People have been playing since then and know more than I do, so the main thing is making a welcome environment and a place that doesn’t cost a ton of money, which is why we’re not charging people to play.”
Hero Quest is open noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday. The store is closed Thursday. Visit Hero Quest Games on Facebook or email them at HeroQuestGames@gmail.com.