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One Good Thing that Came out of 2020

Posted on Friday, December 29, 2023 at 9:37 am


Small Town Games is nestled in the heart of Marshall County at 123 W. Commerce St. Lewisburg. They have events, board games, miniatures, table top games, concessions, card games, tournaments, and an extensive inventory for this niche market.

They opened in 2020 and many gamers, families, and self-proclaimed nerds have fallen in love with the place. Shoppers can find almost anything game related there: Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Pokémon, Digimon, Vampire the Masquerade, Yu Gi Oh!, Warhammer, Unmatched, and so much more. They are a great asset to people looking for a gaming community.

Austin Elkins found the store early last year. Elkins, 28 years old, lives in Chapel Hill with his parents. A diagnosis of Asperger’s (now diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder) when he was five years old gave some answers. Despite his diagnosis, he was thrown out of Kindergarten for being “too out of control and too out of place.” Elkins was diagnosed at a time when he says “people didn’t really understand what that stuff was.” He was in special education classes up until tenth grade when he transitioned into regular classes. He even went into Honors English I and II. He graduated from Forrest High School in 2014.

School has not been his only struggle. Elkins explained, “A year ago I was getting up in the mornings, opening my eyes, and wondering why am I doing this. What’s the point? I’ve had those thoughts before-that deep darkness of life’s monotony. I can’t really put it into words but other people with depression will get it. Usually when those thoughts would come, I would distract myself with things-a good book, a match in a video game, or a good TV show…but in this slump, all my books were read, no new volumes were out, my video games weren’t fun, nothing on TV was interesting. Then on a day off, I remembered a conversation from my more jovial times with a customer, a geek like me, who told me about this place called Small Town Games. I thought I’d try it out. What’s the worst that could happen? So I made my way down here that Thursday, found the store, walked inside, and my life changed for the better. I received a warm reception and was introduced to a whole new world of enjoyment…things that reignited the spark of wanting to go forward again.”

Before finding STG, Elkins said, “Usually I’d just sit in my room all the time. Now I have something that lets me go out and associate. I’m even more open with my family than I usually am. Since going to Small Town, I like to think I’ve come a little more out of my shell.”

On Nov. 27, 2023, the owner of Small Town Games, Toby Truman announced, “Closing will likely take us to early February, with hope we can clear some inventory. We won’t be bringing in any more products…Whatever is left I’ll pack up and sell online.” Truman included heartfelt sentiments to employees, customers, and the community. Alongside it was the reality of being a small business owner. Truman wrote, “The difference between success and failure in a small business is…at 40-75 folks purchasing things weekly we just about reached equilibrium. That’s only about .15% of the population of Marshall County. If we could have tripled that number the store would have been very successful (.5% of the county, or just one of every 200 people).”

Elkins described that day as “the biggest gut punch ever.” He contacted Truman on Discord asking if there was any way it can be saved. Truman told him the store was “in the red.” Elkins got to thinking of ways he could help.

On Dec. 9, Elkins created a GoFundMe with the goal “to save my most favorite place in the world…because it saved me.” Since it launched, it has raised $1,440 of the $3,500 goal. “The fundraiser will help but what will save it are people-more people coming in. Lewisburg already lost its Game Stop. I don’t think it should lose this too,” he said.

He also created a short YouTube video that shows him walking through the store, explaining some of the products, pointing out different board games or card packs, telling how much the place means to him, and then he hit upload. The video has over 400 views.

Caleb Isham has been working at Small Town Games for about two years now. This week while he was in there cleaning and doing inventory, about ten people came to the door just to see if they were open. Clearly the message is getting out. Isham said, “Since Austin’s video and GoFundMe, we’ve added like 250 people on Facebook alone. That’s unprecedented for us.”

The place has also made a difference in the lives of the following people: “In a time I felt like I was wasting away, you gave me a chance and let me run wild with my creativity”-Caleb Isham; “You brought D&D into his life and he made friends he wouldn’t have due to being able to get out and go meet up with them at your store”-Susan Cook Ragsdale; “Will be forever grateful for the friendships that I’ve made there and being taught one of my most favorite games ever now the Quacks of Quedlinburg and Ticket To Ride”-Ann Kohout Jett; “Thank you for the opportunity to work here, to build my chosen family, and learn more games. This is the place I’ve been waiting for for most of my life. I’m ever grateful to have been a part of it”-Robin Pullum; “Can we keep the discord going as a local gaming group”-Evan Chase Hayes; “What you guys have done will long outlive the store”-Frank Sullivan.

Elkins said, “I’m just a simple guy trying to save a place he loves.” No matter what the future holds for the store, Elkins’ life and many others have been changed for the better. It is all because of one little store in one little town-Small Town Games. For more information, you can find them on Facebook, Google, and Discord. Stop in person during the following hours: Thursday 3-8 p.m., Friday 1-11 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.