Geek World isn’t just for gaming geeks.
“It’s for anybody,” Mark Franzen Jr. said. “We’re open to all groups.”
His father and mother, Mark Franzen Sr. and Cynthia Franzen, opened the gaming business in Tyler the first week of September and have already been closing late to accommodate a packed house of gamers playing board, card, video and war games.
Franzen Jr. said that in the few weeks they have been open, they have converted a lot of “non-geeks” into playing games, such as a group of traveling nurses who had not been into playing games until they found Geek World.
Franzen Sr., 45, grew up in Chicago and was in the U.S. Navy for 23 years as a submariner and a surface warfare officer. The family moved around before he retired three years ago to Tyler to be close to his parents. Franzen Sr. worked for a phone company but wanted to open a business. He recruited his son, who was working for a Best Buy in Phoenix, to help run the shop.
Franzen Jr., 22, is the manager of the store, while his sister, 18-year-old Maranda, helps run the cash register and teaches games to customers when she gets out of class at Tyler Junior College.
Mrs. Franzen, 55, owned a stained glass store and took her business wherever the military family moved. She said her husband watched how much she enjoyed owning a business and after his retirement, she decided it was his turn. Mrs. Franzen helps out at Geek World. She also enjoys playing games, she added.
Franzen Sr. always has played computer games but since opening the store, he said he realized how much fun it is and how much social interaction he was missing out on with computer games.
Their oldest daughter, Malissa, lives in Minnesota and has worked at a game store. She’s been a consultant for the Tyler business, giving them advice.
Because the entire family is involved in the business, Mrs. Franzen said it has given them something to do together. “It’s been really amazing,” she said.
“We stay open as long as people are here having fun,” he said. “It’s either this or going home and playing games.”
They sell games such as War Hammer and Yu-Gi-Oh. If customers come in interested in a game they don’t have, they will get it, Franzen Jr. said. They also sell backpacks, T-shirts and other game-related gear, as well as comics. He said comics are very popular, but board games are their biggest point of interest. They have war and zombie board games, as well as a dedicated section for children’s educational games that are so much fun adults play them.
They have a library of board games and also sell used games in good condition.
They also are hosting gaming events and sanctioned tournaments — from video games to role playing games. A video game tournament is planned for Oct. 5. Franzen Jr. said they also want to do a TylerCon, like Comic Con for Tyler. He said they also want to consign local artists. A local game development company, Tricitadel Studios, is testing some of their games at Geek World.
“Our main thing is developing a community here,” he said. “If I’m here, I’ll play a game with you if there’s nobody else here.”
Franzen Sr. said they plan to add a LAN gaming center so people can play network-type video games, and they also offer free Wi-Fi. Since most are young adults, they come before or after work or school or while on their breaks.
“It’s a safe, family place for people to hang out,” Mrs. Franzen said.
Her husband agreed and said the younger crowd can hang out in a safe place without their parents.
“But there’s still a mother watching over them,” Mrs. Franzen chimed in.
Mrs. Franzen said that during the second week in October they will give 10 percent to any student wearing marching band practice shirts because “band geeks rock also.”
Franzen Sr. believes their customer base has grown quickly because of demand and social media.
“When somebody catches a whiff of a new game store, they usually come pretty quickly,” Franzen Jr. said.
Franzen Sr. said the new business has exceeded their expectations.
“We want to give people what they want,” he said. “Who would have thought there would be 15 cars parked outside our store at 10 p.m. on a Sunday?”