Sunday, July 15, 2007

Site Selection

Our first store location has kind of a strange background. I don't live in Walnut Creek. In fact, I have a 30 minute commute to get to the store. Why? I wanted the store to be in the best location possible, even if I wasn't. I looked around. I plotted game store locations on a map using Microsoft MapPoint software. I visited sites, even stores outside of California. Remember that road trip I mentioned? We visited stores in Wisconsin (I've spend lots of time in Madison), Colorado and throughout California. The original plan was to move to Wisconsin, but that didn't go over well with my wife.

I live in Richmond, CA, not exactly the right demographic for game stores. Berkeley and Oakland were inundated with stores with fierce competition. The South Bay, at the time, had too many as well. Pleasanton, however seemed like a great place. We hired Mel Thompson, an industry guy, to do a feasibility study. Most of the work was mine to do, as it turned out. We gave him three potential spots in Pleasanton, and because I drove by it every day on my way to work, I had him look at this place in Walnut Creek.

It turns out Pleasanton sucks for a store. Why? It's spread out along the 580 corridor so that anyone going to your store will be driving too far (beyond the magic 10 minute drive time formula). Only the Walnut Creek store worked according to the study. So that's how Black Diamond Games 1.0 was born.

So after a couple years we started plugging our customer database into that Microsoft MapPoint software. We mapped out our customers by zip code. The software is pretty cool. It shows in various colors where customers live. We learned some strange things we hadn't realized.

The map looked like an explosion of color at our store location followed by a cloud of debris drifting North. But what about South? What about Danville, Moraga and the communities of the fabulously wealthy? Nope, they're not customers. So for the next year or so I made a point of advertising in that area. Still nothing. I used to make a lot of money and I bought a lot of games, so it was strange I couldn't attract those people. As it turned out, my customer base was North of me and the communities to the South could be farmland for all I cared.

So we started looking for a new location North. Luckily for us, the commercial rents, like residential real-estate had plummeted over the years while we were in business. Our rent was still sky high and going higher every year, but there were vacant spaces North of us willing to compromise.

We looked at places in Pleasant Hill, notably an old "dive shop." Many people I spoke with early on assume that's where we're going. It's not. Our next spot was in the "Park 'N Shop" mall, where there's a Fry's Electronics. There was an old beauty school there. They had two spaces, one way too small (2100 sqft) the other way too big (3300 sqft). We tried to negotiate stealing some of the square foortage of the 3300 space and add it onto the more managable 2100 space, but that wasn't going to happen. So we negotiated down the rent on the 3300 sqft space and after a month of back and forth negotiations, that's what we're getting.

Here are some photos of place:

These are best viewed in a browser that's not Internet Explorer (most things are better without IE).

1 comment:

  1. He's a Genius!

    Good Luck with the new store!