Couple caters to gaming enthusiasts at new Middlebury store
MIDDLEBURY — When Scott Gemignani says he likes games, he’s not talking about the ones you operate with a joystick or the varieties you can play on a computer.
“People are getting tired of (electronic) devices,” Gemignani, a 35-year-old East Middlebury resident, said during a recent interview.
The games that Gemignani enjoys are the ones played with cards, dice, moving pieces and a lot of imagination.
“A board game will never need an update, never goes out of style, and you can play it with your kids when you have them,” Gemignani said.
He’s been a devotee of games such as “Risk” since he was 12, playing with family members and friends. His appreciation of games has only intensified as he has gotten older, and his involvement in non-electronic diversions took a huge step forward earlier this month. That’s when Scott and his wife, Rebecca, opened the Tinker & Smithy Game Store at 18 Creek Road in Middlebury.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to operate a game store,” said Gemignani, whose 9-year-old daughter Megan and 6-year-old son Miles have also caught the gaming bug. “It’s been a lifelong dream.”
And a dream realized, thanks to the family’s tenacity and recent lease of a 1,200-square-foot space in the Court Street Marketplace, across from Countryside Carpet and Paint. The space is divided into three rooms in which fans of such games as Dungeons & Dragons and Suburbia can have at it. The store sells a multitude of card and board games, along with accessories. It also hosts game tournaments featuring prizes for the top finishers.
“Board gaming is having a renaissance right now,” Gemignani said.
Indeed, Gemignani knew that his family was not alone in its appreciation of screen-free gaming in Vermont. But Middlebury is somewhat removed from the gaming hubs of Rutland and Burlington, explained Gemignani, who added there are a good number of farm workers who enjoy gaming but simply don’t have the time to travel outside of the county to enjoy their hobby.
Confident there was a market for a local game store, the Gemignanis launched a fund-raising campaign this past winter in hopes of buying a local condominium to house the new business. They ultimately decided it would make more sense to rent the Creek Road space, which affords more square footage than the condo would have.
“I think we’ve made the right choice,” Gemignani said.
Scott and Rebecca Gemignani not only have two children, they work with kids as part of their respective jobs. Scott is a state-licensed childcare provider, while Rebecca is a behavioral specialist with the Addison Central Supervisory Union. So one could say both have remained young at heart and appreciative of games. It’s quite common for the Gemignanis to play board games in front of the home fireplace, as opposed to switching on the television. Young Megan Gemignani has become quite well-versed in a game called “Settlers of Catan.” It’s a game in which players assume the roles of settlers who try to accumulate assets through trading for, and spending on, various resources to build their respective settlements. Players are rewarded points as their settlements grow.
Now the 9-year-old student has become the master.
“She regularly beats me,” Scott said of his daughter’s proficiency at the Settlers game.
But the sky is the limit in terms of the tabletop games and card games on the market these days, according to Gemignani. There’s Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, Lord of the Rings, Flames of War, Warhammer, X-Wing, Vanguard and Yu-Gi-Oh, to mention a few. Eurogames is a specific category of board games that focuses on building assets — such as to colonize, in the specific example of a version called “Puerto Rico.” Eurogames are often very easy to learn but offer a good challenge, according to Gemignani.
Tinker & Smithy has many of the aforementioned games in stock, or will order them. And folks at the store will show clients the workings of a game, so they know what they are buying.
“If someone is interested in a game and wants to see it before making that commitment, we can open it up and they can play it before they buy it,” Gemignani said.
And gamers can get their fill of their favorite pastime during occasional tournaments at Tinker & Smithy, usually held on weekends. Some of those games feature rather elaborate displays, including Star Wars battleship models and medieval soldiers on carefully landscaped battlefields. There’s an entry fee for most tourneys — usually $6. Gemignani noted that entrants each receive a $4.50 pack of cards, regardless of how they place. And each pack might include a valuable card or two.
“Last Saturday, our main room was full,” Gemignani said of tournament participation, which has included gamers coming from Middlebury, the 5-town area, Vergennes and even Rutland. “Our first three tournaments so far have all exceeded our expectations in attendance and sales.”
Store hours are currently listed as Wednesday-Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 4:30 p.m. to around midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m. to the end of the tournament (usually 10 p.m. to midnight); and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The store has a Facebook page offering more details.
ALL KINDS OF CUSTOMERS
Gemignani was pleased to report an eclectic mix of customers, ranging from “new-age hippies to a police officer.”
That officer is Vegar Boe of the Middlebury Police Department.
Boe said he has been a “gamer” since high school. Back then, it was pencil and paper Dungeons & Dragons in its purest form. Upon entering the University of Vermont, he was placed in the “SciFi dorm” at the Living and Learning Center where he was introduced to different games beyond D&D.
“I certainly made some great friends,” he recalled.
He eventually branched out into electronic gaming, but never lost sight of screen-free games. He met Gemignani around three years ago, when he was invited to be part of a new gaming group of professionals that meet up about twice a month for sessions. Boe is now a regular at Tinker & Smithy, and he helps out a lot, according to Gemignani.
“With the opening of Tinker & Smithy, there is now a new home for our game sessions and our group seems to be growing,” Boe said through an email. “I have spoken with players who used to play and now are rekindling their passion for pen and paper gaming with the opening of the store and a place to meet to game.
“Scott has been super accommodating and open to suggestions from people coming into the store, clearly with the aim of having a local business with the community in mind,” he added. “I certainly will continue to support him any way I can to help the store have success.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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