As he steps into Hall of Heroes, Maxwell Hogue is here for one thing: To play.
The Port Sanilac sophomore first discovered Mount Pleasant’s comic and gaming shop in September and has frequented it as a customer and competitor ever since.
“It’s a place that’s open and lets you come and play,” Hogue said. “You can play whenever you want. Everyone is very friendly.”
A dedicated player of the card game “Magic,” Hogue eagerly began attending weekly tournaments after the store’s annual “Magic Celebration” event. Establishing a regular group of five to 10 Magic players, he said the game is a needed escape from his strenuous studies in bio-medicine and physics.
“Especially as a college student, it’s good to get away,” Hogue said. “And this is much more affordable than video games. You can play for weeks on just $20.”
For new gamers hoping to soon enter the rigors of card-based role playing, Hogue cautions against overspending at the host store.
“It’s fun, but be careful how much you spend,” he said. “As long as you have self control, it’s great.”
Owner Michael Schuler said sales have changed over the year. Due to the struggling economy, he said fans and gamers have turned to cheaper means of expressing their tastes.
“Toy sales have gone down, while game popularity has gone up,” Schuler said. “It’s the economy. It’s cheaper to buy a six pack and a pizza and play a game rather than going out and spending a bunch of money.”
With his store’s sales comprising of 40 percent comics, 50 percent games and 10 percent for gaming supplies, Shuler hoped his store could help people socialize.
“It’s unique in that I don’t think a lot of people get to interact with the Internet,” he said. “It breaks down those walls.”
The store originally opened on Main Street in 2005. In 2008, Schuler moved into a larger location at 316 N. Mission St. and outfitted the shop with more tables and space to host gaming events.
Although initially relying on business from CMU students and professors, Schuler was glad to be noticed by local residents in recent years.
For Schuler, a dedication to comics has followed him from childhood. He remembers comics as the first thing he read, at age five.
Learning many words, such as “volcano” from a Superman comic he said he picked up as a preschooler, he’s always held the graphic storytelling close to his heart.
“Comics are the first thing I was reading,” Schuler said. “It’s one of two things that completely originated in America: comics and jazz.”
Despite the modern struggles of print media, Schuler said comics have endured at the Hall of Heroes. He said the store provides subscriptions to up 50 customers, who subscribe to up to 50 titles at one time.
Schuler hosts tournaments at Hall of Heroes every day of the week. From Magic to Pokemon and a figure-based game Heroclix, Schuler is supported by a dedicated staff to mediate the competition.
He estimated having up 100 attendees for the store’s most popular events.
“A lot of the popularity of the store is the people who appreciate what we do and want to help the popularity,” Schuler said. “It’s really my only advertising.”
Chris Wyman, a 29-year-old adjunct English instructor at Mid Michigan Community College, serves as a judge for several events at Hall of Heroes. He said the friendly nature of the store makes his job easy.
“We have a really cool player base here,” Wyman said. “Everyone is supportive of one another. People help each other build teams and create strategies. It’s not really work on my part.”
Deep in the back of the store, behind the aisles of comic books and gaming tables, is John Nemier. The 33-year-old Mount Pleasant man has been going to Hall of Heroes since it opened in its original location.
Working at a convalescent home to earn a living, Nemier uses the back of Hall of Heroes to work on robotics projects, modifying electronic pieces to bring his favorite comics and movies to life.
“I’ve been to places like this in larger cities and it gets too crowded,” Nemier said. “Here, you have a lot more room. It has a sense of community. There’s stuff here you can’t see if you’re just on the Internet.”