Game Freaks’ move nets a win for ‘nerd culture’

There are people who enjoy playing games and then there are gamers. Kyle Pauley is the latter.

Pauley, who referred to himself as a “huge nerd” at the Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. (GGHI) Leaders Celebration — a reference to his love of gaming — did so as he introduced Small Business of the Year a week and a half ago. Game Freaks was a nominee for the small business award.

On Friday, Pauley had his chance to prove how serious he was about that statement.

GGHI sent ambassadors to 110 E. Wishkah Ave., in Aberdeen — the new home for Game Freaks — for a ribbon cutting ceremony in order to christen the store. With any luck for owner Thomas Hedlund and his business partner Cody Fries, it’s their last move within the city. And with approximately 5,000 square feet of usable space for the store full of fantasy games, board games, video games, T-shirts, and more, it will enhance the shop’s ability to host future events and game nights. Their old space, 121 W. Wishkah St., served them well, but they’re in a better space now and they’re right in Aberdeen’s downtown core.

“I wanted to go back to the way it used to be, go larger, carry more of the product that people want and have more space for gaming, like Warhammer and Magic the Gathering,” Hedlund said more than two months ago, when he knew the shop would be moving a block east on Wishkah Street.

Dezy Lindgren, a GGHI ambassador who spoke briefly, shared her thoughts on the shop.

“I think it’s awesome,” Lindgren said. “It’s huge compared to where they’ve been before. I followed Game Freaks even before Thomas and Cody bought it. They’ve been in a couple locations and this one’s by far the biggest and best one they have.”

Game Freaks’ other shop can be found at 432 W. Main St., in Elma.

While it wasn’t ideal for Hedlund to wait so long to open in the new spot, it’s ready now. People remarked about the space, the different visuals and the gaming selection.

While some people inside the store were looking at the massive room the shop has, the dark green paint, the eye-catching memorabilia — such as the Fallout 3 soldier that stands taller than the 6-foot-4 Hedlund, or the bright, white lights that look like a honey comb — Pauley was most interested in the Warhammer products.

“This is gorgeous,” Pauley said to Hedlund about a Warhammer 40,000 set that Pauley ended up adding to his collection Friday.

“I’m unfamiliar with this whole world and this new one, but I found this, and that one, and so now I’m looking, seeing if I need to build an army based entirely off of this,” Pauley said. “And I’m failing at convincing myself I don’t need to do that, spend hundreds of dollars to start a set. I’ve got so many at my house already and have been (building) for years, but I don’t have an opportunity to play. We haven’t had a place to play this really.”

Pauley said there have been “little pockets,” but Game Freaks’ new shop provides another venue.

“So now that it’s all available and I can come down and build my army, and have a place to play, it’s exciting.” Pauley said. “I’m already seeing the dollar signs it’s gonna cost me to continue on but I’m excited for it. I’ve got thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of miniature gaming and paints and sets and terrain that just sits at my house and it’s something that I’ve had for years that I just don’t get to play. So, it’s fun.”

The compliments should warm Hedlund’s heart, since when Hedlund talked about moving, he spoke about getting a large space for such gaming.

It seems Pauley will spend quite a bit of off-time at the shop. Pauley, who has a lifelong passion for gaming, said he played The Legend of Zelda at about “knee high.” And with Rockstar drinks, plus pop, Gatorade, candy, beef jerky and chips, he and other gamers won’t run out of energy.

“I’ve been a Game Freaks fan for years,” Pauley said. “And it’s so exciting that all of this kind of nerd culture and everything is so mainstream now. This ribbon cutting is fun because there are so many people who have not been exposed to D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) and Warhammer and just miniature gaming, and all of this whole world. So seeing people learn more about this and bringing it to the mainstream is just going to put more eyes on it and expose it. It’s exciting to see the expansion and having more opportunity to not only get products locally and shop locally for it, but to play as well.”

The variety throughout Game Freaks impressed Lindgren.

“They have a lot of good anime selection,” Lindgren said. “They have a lot of good, older, rare games, too.”

And despite Game Freaks being a small business that has to compete with corporations such as Amazon, and Walmart, Lindgren is happy to see Hedlund’s prices keep merchandise affordable.

“People think if you shop in a small business you’re paying more, but they actually have really comparable prices, too,” Lindgren said.

Stephanie Conway, director of member services for GGHI, also shared her thoughts about the shop.

“I love it, it looks wonderful,” Conway said. “I absolutely love the signature honeycomb on the ceiling. I think it’s a new thing that they did in Elma. It was super cool there and it’s awesome here too.”

Conway commented on the building itself too. The structure used to hold City Center Drug’s pharmacy.

“I love seeing the renovation on the building and the steel beam that’s autographed by the original company, 100-plus years ago,” Conway said about the writing that says “Grays Harbor Building Co., Aberdeen” on the steel beam.

Conway may not see herself coming to the store often — her gaming experience is limited to the the original “Pong” game, but she has a few grandchildren who should enjoy themselves.

“I have grandkids who love to come to Game Freaks for a special treat,” Conway said. “And walking right in the door and seeing ‘Silver Streak Mining Company,’ rocks are fun for everyone.”

Conway said her youngest grandchild is a “gamer,” but her younger grandchildren — early elementary school-aged — will love to come for other reasons.

“The younger kids will love to come and come check out the plush (toys,) and the puzzles and the games,” Conway said.

Conway sounded excited for Hedlund and Fries, as well as the gamers of Aberdeen.

“I think this is a wonderful store and a great business to have downtown,” Conway said. “I’m super happy they’re here and that we were able to come and celebrate with them today.”

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at