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Success in the Marketplace as a Small Mom-and-Pop Retailer, Despite COVID-19

October 28, 2020

Paraic and Brenda Mulgrew retired from their military service with a dream to build a business around what they themselves enjoy. In 2016 Mr. and Mrs. Mulgrew opened their retail gaming center, Knight Watch Games, “a full-service tabletop gaming center that specializes in board games, card games, miniature games, and role-playing games.” Their store was designed to not only sell games, but also bring the ambiance of the game alive by providing a place where people can congregate, dressed up in full regalia and become immersed in an alternate universe for a period of time.

When you walk into Knight Watch Games, you are transported into a realm of Magic, Might and Mischief. The interior resembles a medieval castle’s grand hall, complete with rock walls, timber, wooden floors, long banquet tables with benches, weapons, and armor on the walls, and two of the Lord’s Hounds happily greet all guests. Soft renaissance music and the glow of sconces set the tone of luxury, love and luck. You might find all three at Knight Watch Games.  – Brenda Mulgrew

Knight Watch Games is not the only gaming store in the San Antonio area, however Mr. and Mrs. Mulgrew did not allow this to stop them. Having grown up in San Antonio and knowing the market well, they designed their business model and built it with careful precision. In 2019, Knight Watch Games was granted recognition on a national level when awarded the Best of North America gaming stores by The Gaming Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and voted the Best of SA 2020 in the San Antonio Current, 30th Anniversary Edition published on October 23rdth.

Reaching New Heights

Their success may be due, in part, to their “we-can-take-on-anything” approach as business owners. When encountering a fight-or-flight situation, their internal instinct to fight has carried Paraic and Brenda through this challenging and unexpected season created by the COVID-19 outbreak. Taking on a fighting stance, they sought out information directly from the source, determined what they were permitted to do as primary owners of their own business, and applied for government assistance provided by various loans and grants.




 
 

Through this trial, they found that there was a strong community backing them. When concerns for paying rent and employees arose during the initial stages of COVID they set up a GoFundMe account to help with those responsibilities and received more than they asked for in just 2 days! Once the aid received from the government was available, they took advantage of their doors being closed and decided to refinish and upgrade their physical space. All the while, establishing an online platform for curbside pickup, which was nonexistent prior to the COVID outbreak. During this process, they maintained their connection to their clients by remaining active on Instagram and Facebook, providing them something to look forward to once their doors were open again.

Brenda commented that while facing these challenges was not easy, taking on a “no problem” attitude – in the sense that nothing would take them down- was the key to prevailing through it.

When their doors were physically shut they opened them virtually by incorporating a virtual tour that allowed for clients to shop the shelves and Tour Their Space as though they were shopping in an online game, selecting what items they needed. Consequently, Mr. and Mrs. Mulgrew expanded their reach by making their store accessible to those who were unable to access it before. Pariac shared that as “some people in the gaming world have social anxiety, this allows us to reach those who we were not able to access before.” As a result of their nothing-will-take-us-down approach, they have “developed a position as leaders in [their] industry”. As their competition now looks to them for direction in how to proceed during this transitory season.

 “Relationships are so vital for what we do.”

The boycotting of Chinese products and COVID’s disruption in product creation and distribution, resulting in prolonged release dates and delayed shipments, led to a loss of control for this power couple. For knowledge is power, especially when it comes to offering top-tier customer service; an area Knight Watch Games prides themselves in by providing clients with “products quickly, efficiently and at the right price”, even when products are not on the shelves. The inability to offer certain insider knowledge to clients, due to such interruptions impacting product availability, has been a challenge on its own. However, by taking on a “No Problem” attitude and remaining consistent in their response to client’s inquiries as soon as they themselves had the answer, Knight Watch Games has successfully maintained its status as being both a credible and reliable source for their clientele to rely upon.

As a result of such efforts, Paraic and Brenda’s vision of creating a warmer, cleaner, more efficient gaming center for friends to congregate together, has now come alive. Located in the Mission Oaks Retail Center down Blanco Rd., Knight Watch Games provides what many other stores lack. Having a “well-stocked, robust gaming library, organized gaming schedules with ample prize support, and professional administration.” While being a well-staffed, full service gaming store with knowledgeable and friendly employees, they are able to ensure their customers have a wonderful experience each time they walk through the door.