The End of a (long) Era. The Game Parlor store (Chantilly VA) to close permanently

  1. image from the Game Parlor website, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Long term residents of the Northern Virginia/Suburban Maryland area who are involved in the gaming hobby will recognize the Game Parlor retail store, a game and hobby shop that has endured in the same location (Sully plaza, in the back hinterland of strip locations) since 1991  The shop was started by Rob Weigend, a local attorney, and his wife Cindy.  The store catered to virtually every classic gaming hobby during its existence, and had many tables set up for playing games– roleplaying games, the popular collectible card games, miniature gaming, and other pastimes.

The massive, MASSIVE collectible card sales display. You can find some of the earliest collectible card game here, going for full price..

Back in the 90s, if it was related to a popular gaming trend, something could be found for sale at the Game Parlor store.   More importantly, the Parlor has served as a hub spot for most gaming in Northern Va, more or less.  Magic the Gathering leagues would hold contests there, clubs would meet there regularly and all sorts of activity would schedule routine events– including Northern Virginia Gamers (NOVAG), which would hold their semi-annual game days at the store, which would (generally) make the store more money as gamers would stop and take a break to shop.  There was, for about a decade, a second location in the Potomac Mills area, but that closed as rents increased.

Looking back at the miniatures tables, from the “recent releases” rack.

The shop persisted through the 2000s, but signs of trouble started cropping up.  Inventory, which had been a huge attraction in 1991, almost never rotated by mid-2000s, and it was not uncommon to find something from that era stickered full price in 2007.  Indeed, a casual perusal of stock the night I took these pictures turned up an illustrated military diary from the year 2000 going for full price.  Of course, there’s the classic story of the Super Nintendo going for full price (its 1991 price that is) year after year after year until a mad collector ended up buying it, vindicating it taking up the shelf space for more than a decade.

A fantasy game, designed by Brian DeWitt, being run the night I visited.

Inventory started to become an issue in the mid-2000s or perhaps earlier.  The shelves have always been crammed with older, somewhat out of date stuff (or “Classics”, depending on whom you ask).  The explosion of popularity of both the newish boardgaming hobby and informational websites about gaming that started in the late 90s and and shot off like a rocket in the 2000s seemed to pass TGP by.  The store buyers would certainly know of “hotness” list, but  not order more than a few of any selected “hot title”, leading to frustrated would-be purchasers to special order, a process that took a long time and with little guarantees (unlike, say, just ordering it from Amazon, which would have it showing up at your doorstep in three days or so).  An oft-repeated comment about special ordering was something like “dang, I WANT to give The Game Parlor my money, I really do.. but they make it so hard!” was heard from the late 2000s onward.

Gradually, I stopped buying stuff new OR used at the Game parlor store.. the old stuff was mostly picked through years ago and was never put on sale, the new stuff never lasted long and once the preliminary fuss was over, would never show up again.  It was so much easier to purchase stuff online.   The store itself, which seemed incredibly modern and swank in the 1990s, became more well worn and gone to seed by the late 2000s.  When the carpet was almost destroyed after the Mongolian restaurant next door flooded into the Game Parlor store, the owner put out a contribution jar to help defray the cost of a new carpet.  From his customers..  I was willing to donate, sure.. but I remember thinking: “Isn’t this the price of doing business?”

One feature of the Game Parlor experience that remained attractive to everyone over the years was the encouragement of regular gaming in the store itself.. many many tables and 6 giant miniatures tables were open to everyone.  As the fortunes of the store declined, table fees were initiated, to no one’s particular surprise.. and to no strong objection.  At least we could support the store after a fashion.   Gamers were willing to put up with a storefront gone to seed and table fees to have a place to go week after week.  That would never change, right?

In response to seeing a rumor online of the store’s closing, I visited last Friday night.  The rumors are true. After 24 years of constant operation, the Game Parlor store will close forever on November 26, 2015.   The reasons appear to be “retirement” (see the signs).

I find myself possessing mixed feelings.  On the one hand, the store had not marched with the times all those years and it seemed a minor miracle that it had lasted until 2015.  On the other hand, the Parlor was a fixture in the life of all DC area gamers.  Everyone knew where it was.. it was our place.  When it closes its doors, an era of good times, an easy location to socialize, and a big outlet for generations of geeks will finally come to an end.  I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss it, and miss it a lot.

Could the store have been managed better?  Certainly.  The inventory issue was always a killer– more than one person has offered to assist the store in setting up an Ebay shop to unload all that embarrassing dated stuff on the shelves, but it was an ebay shop was never initiated.  The store could have been better informed about trends and purchased accordingly– it’s not helpful to find a stack of ten expansions for the big hot game and not find the original, for instance.  With all that said, The Game Parlor store filled a very important role in the history of gaming– not just for the surrounding community of geeks, but by creating a new tier of game store and a new approach for retail gaming.  Maybe a store like this doesn’t fit in the modern market, maybe it does.  I’m just glad I was around to see it happen.  Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Weigend, for running an enterprise that was an important part of life as a gaming hobbyist in the DC area.  We’ll all mourn the loss of the “Parlor: in the years to come.

(apologies for the use of the definite article “the” in front of GAME PARLOR in previous draft.  I was falling back on traditional usage; we have long referred to the store in question as THE Game Parlor, even though this isn’t strictly correct usage, as one commentator generously informed me.  As for misspelling “Weigend”, that I do feel a bit abashed about.  I just never saw it in print much.


11 responses to “The End of a (long) Era. The Game Parlor store (Chantilly VA) to close permanently

  1. I live in Florida and would stop in the stores when traveling North for ACW Reenacting. I will miss them

  2. Many things could be said about how the store was run, but in a lot of ways it was “our” store, even though we didn’t have a say. I only wish some of the issues you note here (many obvious) would have been addressed long ago and we wouldn’t be saying “good-bye” today.

  3. Rob and Cindy have made a major contribution to the gaming community. But shopping online has hurt the “brick and mortar” stores like theirs. We all owe them a thank you for the fun we’ve had because they were willing to remain in business as long as they did. I wish them well…

  4. The Parlor was always a good place to go. I agree with a lot of what is said, but it was where a number of our groups met, and the days we had were pretty decent.

  5. Great comments. Great article. All points are well taken as I remember applying for a job at Game Parlor and getting it except my hours were very structured and subject to no change. Sounds like what happened with the inventory. Cindy was wonderful and I wish them both well.

  6. I Used to ride my bike through unknown paths, and Neighborhoods to get to this store from Chantilly Highlands so I could spend my Lawn-mowing money on Saturday afternoons. You will be missed.

  7. The name of the store is “Game Parlor”, there is no “The”. We don’t say “The Best Buy” or “The Chipotle”. Also, Rob and Cindy’s last name is spelled “Weigend”.

    • You, sir, are a bit of a “git.” Do you think ANYONE misunderstood anything as a result of this error? THE Game Parlor has been in common usage around here for 20 years. Who cares?

      Edits being made.

  8. Wow, I remember that place. My parents lived in Fairfax and when I was in from the Midwest I would stop by for sure, Loved going there as there was nothing like in the 90s. Then in 2000s it was being outdone everywhere, look, feel, inventory. My dad bought some of my Christmas list stuff there, but eventually he went online as they never had the stuff. Well run business at first, and then lost the focus. All the best to the owners and now the gamers to find a new base.

  9. Used to love browsing around this shop back in the day – and I know my wife and her friends spent many an hour at the games tables… If any gaming groups in NoVA are looking for a new spot to play I may know of an affordable place in Clifton – feel free to reach out!

  10. As many of you now know, one of our close neighbors, Game Parlor, will be closing down the day before Thanksgiving. For our current patrons, we hope you welcome everyone with open minds and open hearts. For those coming from Game Parlor, we would like express our deepest apology for your loss and of course wish all the owners and employees good luck.
    We know many of you grew up there essentially and in many ways we sympathize greatly. You built relationships, fought epic battles, and forged timeless memories there that can never be replaced. A lot us started there as well and can attribute our knowledge to the many wonderful people who went there. This industry though can be tough and in many ways it is why the term “support your local friendly game store” has become such an important motto for gamers everywhere.
    We are not Game Parlor and we never will be, but that doesn’t mean our doors are not wide open. We hope to expand and succeed beyond all expectations and of course we hope you will be there with us all the way.

    (This is the company’s opinion and not any single individuals)