The skin you’re in.

Hello again, Imaginary friends. Meet my new buddy, Belaphoss the Mad.


It’s been a bit since last we visited, and this entry has been somewhat self-impeding in composition. There is a LOT of activity in the hive and we have all been consumed with keeping our plans on track so that when we finally announce them, they will have substance and spine and become more than just the dreams from which they were born. All these plans, all these visions, slowly churning their way toward reality. So many cogs in the wheels, so many actions that must be taken before the next task du jour can commence. Of immediate interest, and in chronological progression are the UFS Pro Tour Circuit event (3/19), the Shadows over Innistrad prerelease (4/02), and our Grand Reopening celebration (4/15-4/17). The UFS PTC is an event that will award the winner a $300 airfare voucher and what amounts to an “expenses paid” trip to GenCon to compete in the championship event held there. It’s a pretty big deal, and we set up online registration for the event to assist our out-of-town guests with the process. At the time of this post (0147 the morning of the event), we have sold all but three of those slots. The Universal Fighting System is a collectible card game based primarily on fighting game properties (Street Fighter, Soul Caliber, Darkstalkers, King of Fighters) but also has the hugely popular Mega Man license as well as Penny Arcade in its utility belt. Locally it has a rather small but rabidly loyal following, but this event is bringing in players from cities as far away as Atlanta and Las Vegas, all to play in our newly revamped space. Our first flirtation with a major event in our new skin. Fire has been focused on this, now the day is at hand and we can move on to execution of the event and polishing plans for the Shadows prerelease. More on that and the Big Day in a later post, as they’ll each likely require a good amount of space on their own.

It has definitely been a period of adjustment, and shrinking our 2400 sq ft store/gaming space into a space far less than half that size has presented many challenges as well as opportunities to look at everything we do just a bit differently. The response from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive so far, especially when the initial disorientation of the new layout is adjusted to and they have an opportunity to share the vision for the massive play space we have created. A small handful of guests have actually walked in, looked in the gaming room, mumbled or “harumphed” and walked right out the door again without saying anything intelligible. I’ve found it curious, but it might be a sort of shock; I get that, it’s weird. Everything that once was is no longer, and that level of change can be off-putting for some people.The changes made to IMAGINE! have been executed on a massive scale, subtlety be damned, and if you happen to be one of those folks affected by them in this fashion and are reading this right now, well…sorry? Know that you are free to walk around the store spaces and explore them at your own pace, the space we have created is for you as well as everyone else that comes through our doors. It is intended to be all-inclusive, and we all have to find our own comfort on our own terms. I get it, I really do. In a couple of weeks we will be announcing more of the uses the space is designed for, and hopefully things will make a bit more sense then.20160302_224702

I have fielded several inquiries along the lines of “where’s all your stuff”, which is a fair question because, well…the “stuff” isn’t out there any longer.When we looked at the vastness of the inventory we had acquired, and the categorically undefinable nature of some of it (flea-market fodder?), we opted to remove the unknowns from sight and let those items sort of “earn” their way back onto the sales floor. We don’t really have space or the desire to let things sit on shelves that no one will want to adopt and take home. Our process is becoming streamlined.


The most requested “stuff” thus far has been our pre-owned RPG library, which has now been relocated (mostly) to the sales floor, right up front. There is also a MASSIVE clearance sale on the horizon, in conjunction with our Community Day Celebration, and you will have the opportunity to pick through hundreds of items at 50% off or more. Don’t worry, we’ll let you know so you won’t miss it. Subscribe here and make sure you’re following us, because our blog readers will get a jump on the announcement before it hits Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This is more personal, and I appreciate the fact that you all are interested enough in what we’re doing to read these entries. Please also feel free to comment and interact with us here, and tell us how we’re doing from your perspective. It’s now 2 AM and I have to get up in five hours to get things done for Saturday’s events, so I’ll close with a few teasers of things to come soon (within the next few months!)

Angry Patrick (yes, the one from the radio) is a highly skilled woodworker, and is creating a one-of-a-kind heirloom for us. It will be available for anyone that would like to come in and play on it, and it is going to be absolutely gorgeous (I’ve seen the work in progress on it so far, it’s simply astounding).

We’ve partnered with some pretty heavy hitters in the local food and beverage world for our Community Day Celebration, including a brewery, an ice cream company, a coffee house, a well-loved food truck, and a very talented and renowned chef. Their identities will be revealed soon!


soipartyOur upcoming Shadows over Innistrad Magic prerelease event is not going to be simply another prerelease; it’s a party, and you are invited! It will be costume-friendly (with contest prizes tba), there will be foods beyond what we normally provide (famous for our Pancake events), and…just wait. If you only come to one prerelease event with us this year, make sure it’s this one. Seating is limited in order to ensure comfort. Bring a friend, also; you’ll both be glad you did!

Tickets can be snagged right here, right now.


Large-scale video game tournament events are coming to our IMAGINE! Thunderdome! Details are being finalized now, so as not to conflict with any other events of the same type on the same day. Saturday Throwdowns will be a thing soon.

New gaming schedules are being formulated now so that we will be able to accommodate more events for more types of games (including tabletop miniatures). If you would like to see something on the schedule, or would like to commit to running a game, let us know!

That, my friends, is well over a thousand words for this entry, so I’m going to call it a night/morning.

Thanks for playing!






The Time has Come, The Time is Now…

Saturday morning.

Yesterday was just too busy and too exhausting to do any writing. So, here’s an update.

The plastic came down 15 minutes before we opened. The sun showed itself for the first time in 10 days, the dice display glittered, and the sheen of the newly painted slat wall sparkled with new life. We were ready.

People started trickling in. Some had been following our story and were simply curious about the new space. Some had no idea we had been closed in the first place (obviously they don’t follow our page, tsk, tsk). Most were pleasantly surprised and pleased with our progress. There were a few who wandered about looking a little confused. We even had a couple that looked outright terrified (some people just don’t handle change very well). The majority of our little gaming family seemed to love the new look. This pleased us very much, because as much as we did it to clear our own heads, we also did it for those of you who have stuck by us. Even when we weren’t very pretty to look at.

There will be some growing pains. Case in point, I lost the key to the cash drawer sometime during the move and had to wing my way through the first couple of sales yesterday. Then I accidently started playing Killing in the Name of by Rage Against the Machine while a mom and her son scouted out some Heroclix. Oops. And I may have left  a coffee ring on Jay’s newly painted shelf behind the counter. But I’m still not sure that it wasn’t Richard or Alex that did it. So, yeah, it was an interesting day. But in all fairness, I had entered some kind of altered state of consciousness due to lack of sleep. So there’s that.

I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but I had a good time. I want to say a big “THANKS!” to everyone who came out to see us.

Now that the great reveal is out of the way, we can start focusing on things to come. You see, we not only created a new space, but we’ve also been coming up with loads of new ideas for games and events. The hardest part is over now, and we get to have some fun. There is a lot more to be done. We have grand plans for our new and shiny space, but it will take some time. To start, we are in the planning stage of a Grand Re-opening/Birthday party for our place. It promises to be one for the books, so keep tabs on us, and we’ll let you know when it’s going down.

sweet, sweet case
Our sweet, sweet showcase. Oh, yeah.




There is a crack in everything.

After an exhausting 15 hour day I climbed into bed at 3:30 this morning, and awoke again at 7:00 to be at the store to meet up with the floor guys (I’m James, and this is also James…no relation). James and James Prime. I expected them at about 8:00, and I think they showed up sometime around, what was it, 1:00? No matter, the extra time was well used to clear the way for them to finish what they had started two days before.

Our beginning was anarchistic, our middle tumultuous and riddled with random outbursts and attacks directed at one another, yet the home stretch is calm and lucid. We’ve entered the phase where the layers of uncertainty, spontaneity and impulsiveness have begun to fall away and reveal this new thing, this by-product of a chaotic cohesion that we’re frankly surprised was possible. By all rights, we shouldn’t have been able to pull this off, but turning the key is now actually within our grasp. It won’t be perfect, but perfect is rarely what we truly desire. Far more than a bathroom cleaning and a coat of paint, this has been a multi-faceted journey of personal discovery and analysis of habitual behaviors. It was similar to to when I finally, after a more than 20 year habit, quit smoking; find the weakness to drive the maul in and split the bad habits wide open. Change the habits, and change the way you see the things that initially enabled and encouraged repetition.


Beginning……..  …………………………middle…………………………………………………end
Four coats of wax to seal in the clean.

Even our beloved Rusty received some much deserved attention. Layered in over a decade of accumulated dust and grime…


Then scrubbed down, power washed, and sent through the tin man repair shop ala The Wizard of Oz…


“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen


Anthem – Leonard Cohen

The Journey so Far…

The countdown has begun. The paint is drying, but I can still smell the faint scent as I wander around the empty area, admiring the shine of the newly waxed floor. There is a flutter of excitement when I think about the changes that we have made in only the last eight days. There are miles and miles between where we were (and who we were) then and now. The moments of insecurity and doubt that were so prevalent in the beginning are still there. But the voices of those imps on our shoulders have become fainter and softer. The uncertainties have been replaced with genuine excitement. The hardest stretch of the climb has been conquered. We have reached the peak and seen the view of possibilities below us. Now it is time to make the trip back down. To finish the journey.

There is so much more we still have to do. We have two days until “go time.” We are determined to take down the black plastic and open the doors to the Friday morning sun. New games and supplies will be bought and strategically placed. The gaming tables will be scrubbed to a shine. There are still lights to fix and phone calls to be made. Everything must be in its place. We are still working 12-15 hour days with minimal sleep, but it doesn’t slow us down. We carry on. The things to come cannot dampen the excitement. It’s like Christmas around here.

I cannot wait to see the new place with a new face. It is a new era for Imagine. A second life. Many thanks to all of you who have shared in this journey so far.


Meow meow time.

One of our painters has kept me quite amused over the past few days with his operative vocabulary, especially as it relates to his profession. He refers to missed areas of paint that may require a touch-up “holidays”, while menial tasks or chores that may not necessarily require an abundance of skill are called “meow meow time”. His parlance is most decidedly his own. As it is now past 2 A.M and we will be getting up in five hours (Tuesday morning) to go at it again, I’ll not drag this out unnecessarily. I do, however, have an official timeline update; our doors will be open this coming Friday at 11:00 AM! We may well not be completely ready, but we will have a soft opening for the completely new setup in five (actually, now four) days. I suppose part of the reason you’ve come here is for the pictures, so I’ll leave you with this. Be forewarned, it’s quite qraphic, and not for the faint of heart.


– Jay


So while Jay & Co. were hard at work back at the store, I undertook my own harrowing odyssey.  I went on a 30 hour vacation to GP-Houston.  (All of which was decided before our bout of spontaneous construction.)  Only in Texas can you be given the directions “For the next 71 miles, continue down Main Street”, and actually have it BE Main Street the majority of those 71 miles.  Tiny town after tiny town, all with their Main Streets lined up like a giant connect-the-dots.  To the people of Moscow, Texas, what did the big mean world do to hurt you so bad?  There is NO reason to have 4 speed traps set up within a 3 mile stretch of road.  By the way, that tiny 50mph speed limit sign you have hidden behind the bush in the blind spot of that curve, I SAW IT!  You can’t fool me!  I’m on to your tricks!

But seriously, the drive was uneventful and I got to the Houston area around 1:30 yesterday morning.  I managed to check into a very “nice” hole-in-the-wall motel that smelled faintly of Chicken Tika and strongly of Axe Body Spray.  There was literally a hole in the wall where it seems the smallest drill bit they had to run the coaxial cable was a 1″ bit. Thankfully the giant spider web on the inside caught all the bugs that tried to come in.  The window unit was fairly noisy, but I was lulled to sleep by the rhythmic droning of cars flying down the highway and the gentle rocking of the walls.  All-in-all I have to agree with the 4 out of 5 star reviews on Yelp.

After a nice rest I was eager to get to the GP and much to my surprise there was also an anime convention / cosplay contest going on at the convention center.  Plus a baseball game!  Plus a basketball game!  Plus a rodeo!  At one point I was walking through the two-city block long convention center with ViVi, InuYasha, the 11th Doctor, and some guy in a Rockets jersey surrounded by hordes of Bleach and Fairy Tail cosplayers.  It was then that I had the dawning realization I was headed directly into a random encounter, meaning jersey-guy and I probably weren’t going to make it out alive.  Eventually I meandered my way to the tournament area and all was well again.

So why would I bother going to a GP when I don’t play Magic anymore?  To schmooze of course!  I spent several hours talking with all the artists, getting my playmats augmented and buying LOTS of custom tokens.  These guys have all really stepped up their token game with lots of new fun designs.  Check them out.


There may also be a new custom playmat for us to hang up in the store underneath that pile of stuff.  You can see the signatures of the artists who contributed to the project.  Jay hasn’t even seen this yet, and I’m trying to decide whether to let him or not before it gets framed and hung in the store.  I don’t know, but it’s 3 in the morning, so I’ll think about that more after I get some sleep.


When the imps rear their ugly mugs, the cavalry arrives

Real friends are the ones who show up to help you move.

It wasn’t until I was lying in bed after another twelve hour day at the shop that I realized that I had no idea what day it was. In fact, the last five days have turned into a collage of packing, cleaning, and moving stuff. Rinse and repeat. There was a last minute panic to get things prepped for the painters. Would we be ready for them? Arguments about whether the boxes of 5 cent common MtG cards should go in the back closet or the storage building. And those not so subtle thoughts crept in. The little imps perched on our shoulders, whispering insecurities and doubts about whether or not we were making the right move, reared their ugly mugs. Most of the time it’s easy to flick them off like a bug. But sometimes, they get irritated and the whispering turns into shouting. Those are the times that it is hard to ignore them.

This is had been an overwhelming undertaking, to say the least – mostly because it was started with very little pre-planning. But that is how Jay and I do things, I suppose. Looking back over the last ten years, we’ve always kind of had the ‘devil may care, we’re going to do this or not’ attitude. Sometimes it works out for us, sometimes not so much. Once we put the black plastic in the windows and started tearing the place apart piece by piece, it became our reality. This was happening whether it was a good idea or not. There are moments when it feels momentous. Like it is the most brilliant thing we have ever done, and why in the hell had we not done it sooner? Then we would sit and stare at the absolute chaos around us, and the fire would start to flicker. That is when we become susceptible to the little assholes on our shoulders.

What exactly is our purpose for all of this stress and headache? Was it going to make a difference anyway? What is the point? Could we do this on our own? Our answer came swiftly.

The cavalry arrived. I am a firm believer that the people that you choose to surround yourself with is a good indicator of the kind of person that you are. If this is the case, then Jay and I must be pretty awesome people. I don’t say that out of narcissism, I say that because in our hour of need our friends showed up at our door to help lighten the load. In fact, the outpouring of support has been more than we could have ever dreamed. People (customers and close relations alike) have offered their time and services to help out without any prompting. Had we reached out, I am sure that we would have had an army of helpers loading and packing. The problem had been that since there was never a real plan to begin with, we didn’t know how they could help. Then there are the ones who just showed up. Literally showed up at the door and said, “what can we do?” They have had the patience of Job while sitting around waiting for Jay and I to make up our damn minds about this thing or that. Trust me when I tell you that waiting for Jay and I to make a solid decision on anything is a Herculean task. I also want to give a shout out to the amazing people who didn’t actually come to physically help but offered to take the kids for a few hours here and there.

Thank you to everyone to has offered to be a part of this craziness.

We are not close to finishing what we have started, but I have come to realize what this journey is about now. This has become not just about redefining our store but about growth and community. Something that has become bigger than ourselves. That is why we started Imagine in the first place, and that is why we are going to fight tooth and nail for it.

Imps be damned.






The 10-year mark(er).

While doing a bit of maneuvering and shifting in our back storage area today,  I came across a piece of foamcore roughly 2 ft by 3 ft with a D&D miniatures poster affixed to it with yellowed and brittle transparent tape. It was an Underdark promotional poster, which was really little more than a swarm of spiders of Lolth (Alex’s favorite).  I showed it to him, and asked him if he wanted to take it home and put it with his spider collection. The poster itself was faded and moisture damaged, and just as I was about to throw it out I noticed that there was some writing peeking out from under a tear, a slightly faded red marker. I turned to Alex and said something to the effect of blahblahblah this will be fun to see what’s under here blahblah…

I had no idea what I would see when I ripped that paper back, or how it would hit my feels in the current context;


This was the sign that I wrote by hand in September of 2005, as I was in the final days of preparing to open the doors to IMAGINE! in Sherwood for the first time.

On the back there are more big block letters with our first posted store hours. Shortly after opening I covered the announcement over with the Underdark poster and placed the foamcore in the window, schedule side out and poster side in to remind customers as they left about the sweet new D&D set that was coming soon, and then…I forgot about the sign. Eventually it was shifted to the back storage room when it was replaced by a dry-erase schedule sign, and it was forgotten about completely until now.

This will be going up on the wall in the new IMAGINE! Arena for all to see. Some of you may even remember seeing it in the window, as some of you have been with us from the beginning.

I look forward to it seeing you again, as well.

– Jay

The Secret Window

Break it down in order to build it up.

Come to a full stop before coming full circle.

Mantras and sayings, phrases and motivators, all the driving forces behind the past three days.

Wait…it HAS been three days, hasn’t it? But, in my mind this was all going to be done by Friday! As in, the day after tomorrow Friday. Timelines are difficult to adhere to, milestones elusive when there is no rhyme or reason, there is no plan of action. I decided that Friday was just too soon, that all those months that bled into years of neglect and complacency could not simply be properly addressed in less than five days. The opening date was pushed back at least another week, and the pressure in my chest subsided a bit.

It’s all been very seat-of-the-pants, “make it up as I go along” this week. To be honest, it’s been like that since the first IMAGINE! opened in the very early 2000’s. I remember those days well, back when it was all exciting and new and I honestly didn’t know if the coin even HAD a heads, because the tails came up so often. For longer than I know how to put a timeline on now, that fire had been stifled, nearly quenched. There was a black hole in IMAGINE! of my own design that was slowly consuming me, and I was doing nothing to stop it. Right when I felt that I could no longer feel, the blind purpose presented itself. We went in to the shop early, blacked out the windows, and began to destroy.

It was a very Forrest Gump moment Monday morning;

“Why are you doing this?”

“I just felt like running”.


  • Jay




The First Step to Action is the Hardest

It was late into the evening when we finally climb our tired, old bones into beds with visions of gaming dancing in our heads.

We spent the majority of the day (and into the night over margaritas at the local Mexican joint) brainstorming ideas with a few of those who are in the trenches with us daily. Lots of suggestions were made – some of them stuck, some of them were sent to the no fishing zone. But all in all, we got a rough vision of what we wanted Imagine! to become.

When my alarm sang out via Heat of the Moment by Asia (don’t judge) from my phone at what seemed like mere minutes after I had laid my weary head down, it was time to put our plan into action. Over coffee, we reviewed our notes from the previous day and Jay began to get nervous.

“You don’t think that maybe we should have planned this out a little better? You know, maybe actually thought about this a little more before deciding this was what we should do?”

He was right, of course. We had just kinda said, “screw it” and started emptying the shelves to take down the slat wall.

I could only shake my head. “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now,” I said. “This is happening.”

It was true. The train was leaving the station, and we could either jump on board or stand still and watch everything we had worked so hard for the last ten years to crumble around us. We didn’t have anything left to lose, and no looking back. Jay agreed.

After coffee, Jay started making phone calls to the professional floor cleaners, painters, and electricians. I put pen to paper, outlining specific tasks that would need to be done for the day. With our arms loaded down with lists and telephone numbers, and our caffeine drips in tow, we headed to the store.

The day went by rather quickly. We stripped more walls and took down more slat wall to reveal uncluttered, clean (mostly) walls. It actually felt kind of good. A kick ass transition was taking place right before our eyes. When our arms could no longer bear the weight of any more fixtures, we called it a night. We limped home, exhausted and hungry, and began planning for the next day.

While we had made a great deal of progress today, tomorrow presents a whole new set of to-do’s. Right now, it seems to be an impossible mountain to climb. But we have taken the first step which always seems to be the hardest. And now we go in the only direction that is before us – up.


phase 1
A small snippet of our exhaustive efforts.