Riverhead is quickly becoming the place to look to on the East End. The Suffolk Theater has helped to revitalize the town, the Long Island Aquarium is a great spot for families to visit and expansions and restorations are in development, like the Riverside project. The cultural renaissance in the historic village is greatly encouraging, and a new store opening is about to attract an entirely new crowd. TheWarStore.com, an online store and community website specializing in European-style board games and card games, has set up a brick-and-mortar shop downtown and is set to serve as a mecca for geeks of all ages.
As a lifelong fan of video games and computer games, it was fascinating to talk to someone who has taken a similar “niche” interest and made a successful career out of it. Southold native Neal Catapano launched the TheWarStore.com in 1999 when the lifelong gamer decided to turn his hobby into his profession. Having worked in retail his entire life—you may recognize his name from his family’s Southold farm—Catapano wanted to create the ultimate online gaming store.
“It was always my hobby,” Catapano explains, “and when the internet started in the mid-’90s, I looked online at some of the stores. I’d always worked with my father in retail, and I thought I could do it better than the others.”
Catapano opened the online store with the philosophy that the customer should always come first, something he learned from his father. Being customer-friendly paid off for TheWarStore.com, as a tight-knit local community of like-minded gamers soon developed on the site. Catapano believes the new physical store will be a boon for the community.
“Half of the store is tables for games,” he says. In addition to tabletops for easy gaming, Catapano hopes to set up a LAN network of five computers so customers can organize multiplayer competitions in the shop. But the store isn’t just for the hardcore gamer; Catapano notes that the store will carry everything from Magic: The Gathering cards to Uno, though the store is undeniably going to be popular with the gamer crowd, which Catapano says is a niche that “many people don’t even know about!”
Here’s a quick primer on one of the games the shop specializes in. Magic: The Gathering is a trading card game created by Wizards of the Coast in 1993. Originally designed by University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate Richard Garfield, the high-fantasy setting and addictive competitive gameplay made the game a great success. Players start each game with 20 points and loses when all the points are depleted. There’s much more to the game, with special cards, a complex rule system and countless expansion packs. Major tournaments are held all over the world and there are books on how to develop good play skills. If you played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid in your basement, you’ll probably “get” the game and enjoy it. TheWarStore.com also hosts a yearly convention filled with tournaments with this game and many others.
TheWarStore’s grand opening is set for July 12, and Catapano is extremely excited. “Riverhead draws from both forks. Most of the people playing these games are coming from western Suffolk, and having them drive another 25 minutes [to the website’s headquarters in Southold] isn’t practical.”
Catapano wants potential customers to know that the store has something for everyone and that employees will always be on hand to guide new gamers in choosing something that suits their interests and tastes. So get in there and start playing!
For more information on TheWarStore.com and its Riverhead store, visit thewarstore.com or call 631-765-0047.