Local Videogame, Book Stores Busy as More Crave At-Home Entertainment

Games Then and Now and The Bookstore at Fitger's are experiencing boosts in sales recently.

DULUTH/SUPERIOR- With so many still schooling and working from home, entertainment has also had to happen at home — so local businesses offering activities like videogames and books are seeing an influx in customers.

“As you can see when you guys came in it was constant people in and out of here,” said Jason Matic. co-owner of Games Then and Now.

The store on Tower Avenue in Superior has hit the bonus level when it comes to customers. “People are kinda stuck indoors so they’re looking for alternative entertainment,” said Jason.

Owners Jason and Diane Matic said as the pandemic continues, they’ve seen sales of games and systems go up 30 percent.

“We’ve seen a lot of older systems have picked up in sales,” Jason said. “In fact we’ve seen a lot of people trading them for, newer systems for the older systems. Which was interesting.”

That doesn’t mean everyone’s going back to the days of black and white Atari games. But systems from the last 10-20 years are offering a newer experience for some.

“Systems like the Wii have come back because people were like, they’re individual, small cluster family, they’re stuck together and it’s an activity.” ‘Cause the Wii is active,” said Diane Matic referring to the Nintendo system of 2006.

According to the couple, even more people are coming in for repairs as families blow the dust off systems and equipment they had lying in the closet.

“And then they realize they were out of power supplies, or the A/V cables, or their HDMI cables got chewed by the dogs or just that kinda stuff,” Diane said.

But not all Northlanders are looking to level up. “A lot of people have to be on zoom calls so they’re looking at screens all day and they just need to rest their eyes,” said Anna Stangl, Assistant Bookstore Manager.

So they choose to stick their noses stuck in a new book. And the Bookstore at Fitger’s in Duluth has seen plenty fly off the shelves.

“This year we closed for I think five or six weeks. And we almost matched last year’s sales,” Stangl said. “Which is amazing considering we were closed for that long during tourist season during May and June.”

But what may be surprising — reading isn’t the only hobby people are falling into lately.

“We’ve seen a huge uptick in puzzles,” said Stangl.

“Normally we do two or three puzzle orders in the holiday season. I think we did five or six this year,” she said. “Just kind of have to keep buying because they keep selling out.” The most popular: a cartoon scene of Canal Park.

According to the Assistant Manager, assembling pieces that can number in the thousands provides a nice escape.

“When our store was closed for a few weeks I brought home some puzzles,” said Stangl, “and my roommates and I did them and we all listed to a different audiobook and just peacefully sat together and did puzzles.”

“It was a nice way to be around each other but not be at each other’s throats,” she said.

Whether it’s a perplexing puzzle or a preoccupying page, Stangl says getting it locally ensures your money goes back into the community.

The Bookstore at Fitger’s features a whole wall dedicated to their “Regional” titles — books either about the Northland or written by Duluth authors.

And staff say they develop relationships with customers to personalize their shopping experience.

“Barnes and Noble is great but shopping at a local bookstore, your bookseller is gonna be able to say I really love this book because of this reason instead of ‘this book is one that our business team has decided is a really good book’,” she said.

Both business owners and management said they’re thankful the community continues supporting them at a time when many businesses haven’t faired as lucky.

“We feel very fortunate,” Jason Matic said. “We appreciate all of our customers and new customers that have come in in the last year here. It’s been amazing.”

Both businesses offer curbside pickup and in-store shopping. Games Then and Now is open until 6 p.m, and The Bookstore at Fitger’s until 9 p.m. during the week.

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