Gaming On Grand

by James Barrows

Ted and Tom Apollo, owners of Gaming On Grand, work hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for fellow gamers in Escondido and North County to connect, socialize, play, and purchase their favorite games.

The two brothers opened their store in the fall of 2017. Ted said, “Me and my brother play games all the time, and we grew up playing games. That’s been our thing…we got into this miniature game, Star Wars X-Wing…we thought if we spent the amount of money we’re spending right now [on games] at our store, we’d be in business.”

They currently lease a small portion of a building off of Grand Avenue from the owner of Yellow Line Digital, Joe Szalkiewicz, and they continue to expand into it. Ted said, “Eventually, we want to get the whole building. We want all 3,000 square feet. We’re looking to maybe do a ten-year lease, with the possibility of doing a right of first refusal, so if they ever go to sell the building, we get the chance to buy it first.”

To keep fellow gamers coming to their store, the two brothers focus on building relationships and encouraging customers to come play games and socialize. “What we really do is we form relationships. When people come in, they meet other people they like that they’re comfortable with, and that they have a common interest of a game with” Ted stated. He continued, saying, “You can get a lot of this stuff [the games] online, [from the] guy selling them out of his garage, but you can’t play in his garage. So, we kind of need our consumers to say, ‘I really want to buy it through the store, so that I have a place to play’. That’s what we rely on. Our customers are pretty conscious of that.”

John Weaver, a senior at JPCatholic, often buys from Gaming On Grand. He said, “A lot of times, game stores will go out of business because people will just buy games online. So, I shop at brick and mortar game stores because to me, it’s about more than the games. It’s about the community. The community that forms around board games and card games is always friendly, respectful, competitive, and fun. Gaming On Grand is no different.”

The Apollo brothers hope that their store will continue to teach local consumers [of] the importance of buying conscientiously and supporting local stores, as opposed to buying from Amazon, Target, Walmart, and chain stores. Ted said, “Keeping things local is so important, cause we’re gonna spend money locally…we love HBrothers, so we support them all the time…if we weren’t doing business, if people instead we’re buying from Target or Amazon, that money would never go to HBrothers.”

Their busiest time is at night when they have board game nights, ranging from Star Wars to Dungeons and Dragons to Magic. Phillip Gregg, a sophomore at JPCatholic, said, “I typically go for Magic the Gathering when I do go. They’ve been hard at work building their Warhammer and Star Wars: X-Wing communities, and they also open their game rooms for D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) night…I particularly like the welcoming atmosphere and how helpful and friendly the owners are.”

Gaming on Grand plans to remain on Grand Avenue for the foreseeable future. The owners believe in not only Escondido’s future, but Grand Avenue’s too. They both continue to encourage small businesses to set up shop on Grand Avenue, hoping that Escondido will become a downtown hub for people in Escondido and North County. Ted said, “I love Grand Avenue. I really believe in the whole downtown kind of thing… People are moving back into the cities and getting away from suburban areas. Escondido is weird because it’s kind of in flux, and that’s where we’re trying to figure out what Escondido wants to do. Does Escondido want Grand Avenue to be an antique mall, or does Escondido want Grand Avenue to live up to its potential [and] be a hip center for North County? If they’re moving forward towards that [a downtown hub], things are gonna be awesome. We’re happy we got in early.”