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Windom has been home to comics, games and variety shop for nearly two years

WINDOM -- Who wouldn't want to play games every day? That's the hypothetical question business partners Bryan Dodge and Levi Duerksen twist into a simple answer as to why they opened a comics, games and variety shop in downtown Windom. "We're a w...

WINDOM - Who wouldn’t want to play games every day?

That’s the hypothetical question business partners Bryan Dodge and Levi Duerksen twist into a simple answer as to why they opened a comics, games and variety shop in downtown Windom.

“We’re a weird mix,” Dodge said about their shop, Nerds, LLC. “We don’t know what we are sometimes. We’re not a pawn shop … we do some forms of thrift. We’re just a nerd store.”

The storefront - located at 288 10th St. - is packed with a variety of merchandise, which Dodge affectionately categorizes as nerd or dweeb-appealing products.

From gently-used DVDs to board games, new and retro video games, collectibles, accessories, video game consoles, retro comics and an open play space, Nerds offers products for anyone to get their “nerd” fix without having to drive over an hour to fill it.

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In fact, the lack of such a shop within a reasonable distance of Windom was a key reason Duerksen got on board as co-owner.

“I was tired of going to Mankato to get all of my Magic (The Gathering, a trading card game) supplies and play games with people,” the 2009 Windom graduate said. “I figured this would be a nice central hub for people to come play games. Because we’re a central link to other places, I figured this would offer the smaller towns a place to come to.”

A gathering place is exactly what it has become for more than 20 to 30 regular game enthusiasts who drop in randomly throughout the week, proving that nerds are actually very sociable - contrary to popular belief, Dodge said.  

“We’re not a nonprofit, but a for-profit drop-in center; that’s what a lot of people have compared us to,” Dodge said.

Dodge also explained how Nerds is more than a retail store.

“We’re here partly as a service,” he said. “You could call Levi a babysitter sometimes. We could have one guy come in and say ‘let’s play a game,’ and Levi does it - not because he wants to, but you gotta keep (the customers) happy.”

Keeping the customers happy often means not disrupting their game because it’s “closing time.”

Posted hours are noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to midnight Friday and Saturday; and 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday. But, as Dodge explains, the only time that’s set in stone is each day’s start time.

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“When we close is the minimum we’ll be open,” he said. “Once I was here until 6 or 7 in the morning.”

The sporadic late-night hours would not be for everyone, but it’s the type of schedule Dodge was seeking when he toyed with the idea of becoming a business owner.

“I’ve never been someone that likes working for other people,” he said. “I have my own ideas on how to do things and don’t really like waking up early in the morning.”

Things fell into place in spring 2016 for the Mountain Lake native when he purchased the building from an individual, by whom Dodge was employed, that operated a pawn shop at the same location.

Things progressed rapidly from there - Duerksen jumped on board, displays went up and a very basic inventory allowed the longtime friends turned business partners to open June 1, 2016.

In hindsight, they probably opened too quickly before they could complete the displays and building modifications they wanted, Dodge said.

“That’s why we look like a bunch of hobos,” Dodge laughed.

Had they waited just two months later, though, Dodge questions whether they’d still be operating today.

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“The gaming and collectible industry is slowly taking a hit,” he said. “As the economy is coming back, it has gone down, which is really weird. It’s completely different from what I’ve heard in the bigger city stores, but that’s not the case (here). We’re not where we used to be (profit-wise), but it should change.”

That reality makes Dodge and Duerksen’s Nerds business a total labor of love, as the unique store in the southwest Minnesota town of 4,500 has yet to turn a profit.

“We are a complete wash; it’s amazing,” Dodge said. “I’ve talked to other businesses and they don’t know how we’re still doing it - why we’re still doing it. As long as it keeps paying the electricity bill and utilities bill, we’ll still be here. It’s the day I can’t pay a bill - that’s the day I’ll start thinking, ‘well, maybe we’re doing something wrong.’”

What’s working, Dodge said, is scrapping the “big city ideas” and simply catering to the best of their ability to their customers’ desires.

That could mean not having a concrete gaming schedule or pulling one cord or controller from an old video game console, a service that would be hard to find at a large retail store. It’s that convenience, they think, that has people coming back. That convenience also means purchasing and reselling individuals’ games or movies they are ready to retire.

“We buy tons of stuff and resell,” Dodge said. “Probably 75 percent of our inventory is gently used.”

Rummaging through boxes of people’s old “stuff” is exciting for Dodge. He and Duerksen both agree, when someone walks through the door looking to sell unwanted items, they’d better hope Dodge is in the shop.

“I drive (Duerksen) nuts,” Dodge laughed.

“Because he buys all this stuff,” Duerksen quickly interjected.

“I can’t say no,” Dodge said. “There’s too much cool garbage that comes through here.”

Even if someone cannot find anything they want, Dodge likes to think the store is unique enough there is no such thing as a wasted trip inside.

“How many places do you get to see a Pikachu riding a tricycle?” Dodge asked, looking and pointing up to where the popular Pokémon character hangs from the shop’s ceiling.  

Dodge said there’s still plenty to be done nearly two years later, and the duo dream of having a bigger space to facilitate for a better play area.  

“We’re nowhere near where we want to be,” Dodge said. “But we’re here to help people.”

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