Business

Geek City Games in North Liberty is a screen-free zone

Store carries no computer games

Josh Karau, co-owner of Geek City Games, watches as Drew Shradel of Marion (left) and Dave Curtiss of Kalona play a tabletop strategy game based on the heroes and villains of the Marvel Comic Book Universe at Geek City Games in North Liberty on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)
Josh Karau, co-owner of Geek City Games, watches as Drew Shradel of Marion (left) and Dave Curtiss of Kalona play a tabletop strategy game based on the heroes and villains of the Marvel Comic Book Universe at Geek City Games in North Liberty on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)
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NORTH LIBERTY — There’s one leisure activity you won’t find at Geek City Games and Comics.

“We don’t have any computer games,” co-owner Jason Clark said one morning this week. “We’ve got board games, comics, miniature games. Too many people are doing tablets and computer games.”

Parents looking for a way to spend winter evenings with the family have been a big part of Geek City’s customer base since the store opened in Coralville in 2014.

“It’s entertainment for the family for $50,” Clark said. “You can go to the movies for $50, or you can get a board game you can play for months.

“A lot of parents are trying to get their kids to socialize more and put down the technology.”

Clark worked a variety of managerial jobs in retail before he and Josh Karau opened Geek City.

“I just wanted to be my own boss,” said Clark, of Mount Vernon. “It’s fun, a family activity. I enjoyed gaming, so I’d pass that along.”

Geek City moved to its current 3,000-square-foot storefront in North Liberty’s Beaver Kreek Center, off North Dubuque Street in North Liberty, in 2017.

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The store also sells used games and maintains a library of demonstration games for customers to try out a new title before buying.

“We’re more of a gaming store,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of similar stores, but they don’t carry a lot of the same games. We’ve got more board games than most people, we have a decent role-playing selection.”

The store draws enthusiasts from as far as Burlington and Muscatine for regular gaming sessions — check the store’s website or Facebook page. For many gamers, gathering around a table is preferable to online pursuits.

“A lot of the games come out digitally, but there’s not that social aspect to it,” Clark said. “It’s not as fun.”

Clark, Karau and their four employees have seen a resurgence of youthful interest into that stalwart of the role-playing genre, Dungeons and Dragons.

“It’s stronger now than it has been in a lot of years,” he said. D&D game nights nearly fill the shop, “but we’re still looking for DMs (dungeon masters, the game’s master of ceremonies) and players.”

Geek City staff sees younger customers seeking to expand early interests.

“They’ll start off with Pokemon, because they see Pokemon on TV or whatever,” he said. “They they’ll switch off and do something different.”

Before there was gaming, there were traditional board games that remain popular with older players.

“My grandmother had Alzheimer’s,” Clark said. “Playing games, or even doing role-playing games, helps to combat that. That’s a big thing to me.”

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Following the interest of his own two children, ages seven and 11, and their friends is an important strategy to counter online competition.

“I carry most everything people would come in and ask for,” Clark said. “They don’t stump me very often.

“The only way I can compete with Amazon is, I have it now, or you can wait a day or two.”

The market for vintage comic books may be aging out, Clark said.

“Comics are dying,” he said. “In the next five years, you’re going to see less and less comics. Kids, millennials, they’re more used to digital (storytelling media).

“They don’t have to own something as much as they just want to read it and be done with it. The big draw to comics is owning and touching and feeling it.”

Still, comics retain a loyal, if maybe aging, following.

“They just find us,” Clark said. “We don’t have to advertise for comics.”

Game developers often check in to see what’s hot.

“The publishers are pretty close to the retail side,” he said. “They definitely take our feedback.”

Geek City sees a seasonal boost with the holidays — especially among families whose children are on vacation.

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“A lot of people come in looking for something fun to do with their family,” he said. “It’s dark, they’re cooped up.”

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AT A GLANCE

• Co-owners: Jason Clark and Josh Karau

• Business: Geek City Games and Comics

• Address: 365 Beaver Kreek Center, Suite B, North Liberty

• Phone: (319) 626-2671

• Website: geek-city.com

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