Sunday, December 10, 2023

Gathering Place: Snake Eyes aims to be recreational hub

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Co-owner Tom Foley (right) shows Erich Hurliman of Altoona a binder of Magic the Gathering single cards for sale at Snake Eyes Gaming. The store also buys collectible gaming cards.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Snake Eyes Gaming wants to take over the world. Well, not really, but if they play their cards right, the shop’s owners want the business to be known as the place to be for gamers of all ages.

“We want Altoona to be the gaming capital of the world,” said Dutch Brennan, one of the six current owners.

The owners’ mission is to give the community a recreational hub: “a place for all people to go and belong, no matter their age or what they do for a living,” he said.

The shop, in the rear of the Fiore Furniture building at 201 Cayuga Ave., is already a popular gaming hangout, just like its founders imagined.

Snake Eyes Gaming came to life in 2013 with five owners — Josh Turiano, Gary Klinger, Bill Olstein, Jason Bushore and Mike Mirobelli, who were all members of a gaming club.

Gaming card sets are also available at Snake Eyes Gaming.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

The new owners — Brennan, Olstein (the lone holdover), Jonathan Moriarity, Dan Harber, Jesse Frailey and Thomas Foley — took over in 2018.

“The old owners are our friends,” Brennan said. “They had kids and didn’t have time to run it.”

The gaming mecca uses 1,500 square feet of space and offers open gaming space with ready-to-use terrain and gaming boards for miniature gaming, a video and movie area, a separate room with a signup sheet for role-playing groups and a shop that sells a wide variety of games, gaming supplies and specialty or collector gaming cards.

‘Golden age of tabletop games’

Snake Eyes specializes in tabletop games — of which there are hundreds of varieties.

Jim Bryan (left) of Osceola Mills and co-owner Jesse Frailey play miniature wargame Warhammer Age of Sigmar on a table in the store.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

“This is the golden age of tabletop games,” Moriarity said. “There has never been more of it.”

Shelves are packed with games available for use free of charge while in the shop. Traditional games such as Monopoly can be found, along with Risk. But there are other boxes waiting for those curious enough to pull out the directions and pieces for games such as Mage Wars, Potion Explosion, Star Wars Armada, Hero Quest and more.

“We have hundreds of games which people can play,” Moriarity said. “There is something for everybody.”

Brennan said Snake Eyes has a wide variety of clientele ranging in ages from 7 to 70 and older.

“All come to the same place to enjoy gaming,” he said.

That’s due the club mentality the owners share.

“We are a place people can go and feel comfortable just hanging out,” Brennan said. “We have a lobby area with TV and video consoles.”

Snake Eyes, Moriarity said, gives people a place to play and not worry about other issues in their life.

People can lose themselves in Magic the Gathering or Pokemon, both collectible card games, or Warhammer 40K, a tabletop miniatures game. All three are quite popular right now, Brennan said.

Loyal fans

Tim Miller and Jason Sieglinger, both of Altoona, have been gamers since Snake Eyes opened.

“I love the atmosphere. It is good for anyone whether you have experience or not. They welcome you with open arms,” Miller said.

The gaming can get highly competitive, he said, and he enjoys stopping by to unwind.

“I love it there,” he said. “After a rough day at work, I can go there and see my friends and hang out; it helps keep a balance in my life.”

Sieglinger has been interested in games since he was a kid, playing Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering since he was 13 years old.

Gaming is not only a way to unwind, he said, but provides socialization and the opportunity to “do something with people.”

Tim Baker of Altoona also has been going to Snake Eyes since it opened 20 years ago. Baker, who has been an active player of Magic the Gathering for about 30 years, said the shop has plenty of inventory and space to play.

“I have become friends with the people who work there,” he said. “It is a great place to go.”

Troy Radford of Duncansville has been gaming at Snake Eyes for about a year and a half, stating that as soon as he and his family walked in the door they felt welcome.

“The Dutch greeted us,” he said. “He made you feel like you were family.”

Radford has four children, three of whom are gamers. “My girls are competitive Pokemon players,” he said.

For those who don’t know how to play the games, the owners, who run the business with some volunteer help, are willing to teach.

“With mainstream games, we do demonstrations,” Brennan said. “We sit down and show people how to play.”

In addition, Snake Eyes supports fundraising efforts, working with groups such as Gearbox Union, Greenbean Coffee House and Extra Life to raise money for Children’s Hospital and families in need across the region.

The shop has also been a primary sponsor of Sci-Fi Valley Con every year and has managed a large portion of the gaming areas during the convention.

“It gives us exposure and shows people who we are,” Brennan said.

Snake Eyes conducted a wellness day at the Frankstown Elementary School as the Hollidaysburg Area School District used gaming as a mode toward health and wellness for teachers.

Future plans

Snake Eyes’ future looks bright and has “tripled in size and quintupled our amount of sales over the last five years,” Brennan said.

“We are outgrowing this space,” he said. “We want to grow as big as we can to accommodate as many people as we can.”

For gamers who can’t make it in when the business is open to the public, a membership club is available. For $15 a month, a special area is open to club members 24/7.

But, you don’t have to be a member to play at Snake Eyes, the owners emphasized.

“We want people to come here and be happy,” Brennan said.

Brennan said Snake Eyes’ key to success has been its interaction with people.

“We engage them to see what they are interested in. How we grow is how we interact with customers and games,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.

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