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#OTGYpsi: Ypsilanti experiences growth in number of gaming stores


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: New Ypsi businesses cater to gamers of all kinds and a wave of nostalgia for retro games

Wyrd Byrd

Wyrd Byrd on Instagram

Game Pawn

Golden Rhino Games


Cathy Shafran: You are listening to 89 one WEMU FM. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. It's a program intended to bring you the stories of the Ypsilanti community. And we bring you On the Ground Ypsi, in partnership with the reporting team at Concentrate Media. And, today, our focus is on game stores. You may not have known about them that they're sprouting up in Ypsilanti. Today, I'm joined by Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale, whose online news site is reporting this week on several new Ypsi businesses that are offering options to gamers of all kinds. Rylee, thanks so much for joining us.

Rylee Barnsdale: Thanks for having me.

Cathy Shafran: Can you give me an overview of what the article is talking about?

Rylee Barnsdale: Part of what makes Ypsi so fun and vibrant is all of these unique stores and store fronts. You know, there's a little bit of something for everybody, which is so fun and so interesting about about the city. And Sarah's article focuses on some of the newer businesses that have come up in the past few years that all sort of have this common thread of games and that looks like video games that are vintage or new. It looks like tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons and also other vintage oddities and collectibles. And folks that are interested in gaming are, you know, kind of leaning towards and excited about.

Cathy Shafran: I have learned just in the WEMU newsroom that half of the staff is very much into vintage games and gaming of all kinds. Are we finding as a result of this article that there's just a growing interest in something like this?

Rylee Barnsdale: I think especially recently and with the pandemic, there's been a lot of folks looking for things to do inside or things that they can do over a Zoom call, and those vintage games or tabletop games or board games, even those things that you can do with people that are right there in your pod that are safe to do when, you know, if you're worried about getting sick or they are great for parties, now that we can all get together a little bit more.

Cathy Shafran: We've been talking in previous episodes on On the Ground Ypsi about the retailers in downtown Ypsi meeting this eclectic need, bringing an eclectic group of people to the downtown area and to the city. Do you think this is just yet another genre?

Rylee Barnsdale: I think it's definitely another lane to go down. You know, we have all of these creative artists and musicians and actors and all of these other groups of people that tend to veer toward eclectic and gamers and folks that are interested in not only video games, but also those tabletop games, those things that you play with, you know, other folks in person. I think that's just another avenue to go down when it comes to brightening the tapestry of Ypsi.

Cathy Shafran: You know, in the report that Sarah Rigg did in Concentrate Media this week, she did talk extensively with Shawn Gates, and he is the owner of a new and used record book and game store. And I'm going to spell the name of the store. It's spelled W-Y-R-D. And the second word is B-Y-R-D. So I was thinking it's called Wyrd Byrd, but Shawn is actually in the studio with us right now, and he is going to tell us how to pronounce the name of his store and what we can find inside. Thanks for being with us.

Shawn Gates: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Cathy Shafran: Okay. The name is....

Shawn Gates: I say "weird bird." Other people say "wired bird" or "word bird" or "weird beard." To me, it doesn't matter.

Cathy Shafran: You named it, though. Does it have a specific meaning?

Shawn Gates: Yeah. So, looking at the word "weird," it's an old, I believe, Anglo-Saxon term, meaning like fate. And, but nowadays, in English, it's means more like uncanny or strange. And I like both of those for the store. I also own birds. So, to me, it's Weird Bird I'm like a weird bird hanging out with my birds.

Cathy Shafran: You have birds in the store?

Shawn Gates: No, at home. They'd be a little too loud, I think, for the store.

Cathy Shafran: Tell us what's inside.

Shawn Gates: In the store, we have new and used records centering mostly on punk and metal, but also some old rock records and some other things. On one side of the store, I have new books and zines, and on the other side is use books and zines, and this all includes role playing games as well. I carry both new and used tabletop games.

Cathy Shafran: I just learned zines.

Shawn Gates: Yeah.

Cathy Shafran: I guess I'm an old fuddy-duddy. So, zines, for those who don't know what they are, are?

Shawn Gates: They are, like, a self-published magazine, typically small. They range anywhere from black and white Xerox on up to something very nice and professional-looking.

Cathy Shafran: And games as well. You just touched on that.

Shawn Gates: Mm hmm.

Cathy Shafran: What type of games? And are those attracting customers?

Shawn Gates: Yes, they seem to be. So, I carry both new and used versions of Dungeons and Dragons. That's the biggest one. But I also carry other games. I have some used Warhammer and some other tabletop games, old RoomQuest in old magazines and things. And then, on the new side, I've got not only Dungeons and Dragons, but games like Mork Borg and another good game I carry is Old School Essentials, also Dungeon Crawl Classics. So, those are some of the newer role playing games that are out.

Cathy Shafran: I understand you just opened up the store in October.

Shawn Gates: Yes.

Cathy Shafran: Relatively new. And what area of Ypsi is it in?

Shawn Gates: We're downtown. We're at nine South Washington, so we are next to the Common Source Apothecary and across the street from the thrift shop, Growing Hope, and the Taproom.

Cathy Shafran: And why did you bring your idea into this particular area?

Shawn Gates: I've lived in Ypsi for quite a while. I've lived in Ann Arbor and Ypsi since like '92 back and forth. I've always loved this town. I bought a house--or my wife and I bought a house--here in 2002. And this idea is something we've always wanted to do, mostly records, but I also play a lot of role playing games when I get time and read books and zines. And we thought that together they might work and fill up a small store and get people in, especially because there's overlap between all of these kind of things, right? A lot of people that like punk and metal music also play tabletop role playing games. They like fantasy books and sci-fi, which is what I carry. And a lot of us are into zines because we were introduced to them when we were younger.

Cathy Shafran: Ypsilanti because you believe there's a market here?

Shawn Gates: Oh, yes, I do, actually. There's quite a few people like me around here, and I'm learning that more and more as more customers come in.

Cathy Shafran: Did that surprise you, or did you know that before you chose your location?

Shawn Gates: I kind of knew. There are definitely more people that I'm meeting now, so it's making that crowd even bigger. But I kind of knew. Ypsi is a quirky little fun town. It always has been.

Cathy Shafran: And do you think your presence there will draw more of the quirky people to town?

Shawn Gates: I hope it does. One thing, you know, it's important. And something like this is to have a good-sized counterculture, people working together, learning from each other, creating bands, writing zines, writing books, making games. So, there's a lot of those kind of folks around here I'm finding.

Cathy Shafran: And so, it could be a meeting place.

Shawn Gates: Yes, absolutely.

Cathy Shafran: For people with those mutual interests.

Shawn Gates: Absolutely.

Cathy Shafran: Really understand in addition to Shawn's business, there are other game-related stores that are popping up in Ypsi. Can you tell us about those?

Rylee Barnsdale: That's right. So, in Sarah's article, she also went into and spoke with the owners from the store Game Pawn, who just opened a Ann Arbor location or an Ypsi location. Their flagship store is in Waterford, and it was opened in 2020. And they do a lot of video game buying, selling, and trading. So, it's vintage and rare, as well as newer things. And I know they also do collectibles and things like that. There's also the Golden Rhino, which opened in 2020, in the summer of 2020, and they focus on the game Warhammer, which Shawn mentioned briefly there, and they sell the game itself and the books. They also sell the miniatures that you need to play Warhammer. I know that the owner, his big focus is teaching people how to play, and it is sort of broadening that community here in Ypsi.

Cathy Shafran: I notice also that they are selling some vintage video games.

Rylee Barnsdale: Yeah, at Game Pawn there, the owners, Garrett Pyatt and Cam Sohrabi, they sold vintage games in their youth just to make a quick buck. And now, they've made a whole business out of it. And they have been saying that there's a lot of interest for those old school Nintendo and Sega games. You know, we have this millennial age group who now are old enough and making their own money. And now, they can buy the games that they played as kids to then play with their families now. They're sort of banking on that nostalgia train that we're kind of riding right now.

Cathy Shafran: So, a whole group of entrepreneurs looking at nostalgia and games to draw in, again, this eclectic mix of folks to Ypsilanti.

Rylee Barnsdale: Absolutely.

Cathy Shafran: And it's all covered. And people can get a look at that in the article in Concentrate Media this week.

Rylee Barnsdale: They sure can.

Cathy Shafran: So, Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale and Shawn Gates, owner of the record book and game store...Wired Bird?

Shawn Gates: Weird Bird.

Cathy Shafran: Weird Bird.

Shawn Gates: Wired Bird's okay.

Cathy Shafran: Thank you so much for joining us today for On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti. Public Radio from Eastern Michigan University. And online at WEMU dot org.

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Cathy Shafran was WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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