End of an Era

Bill Blyden from Dork Tower

I’ve worked at Pegasus Games for a really long time. So long, in fact, that years ago I was immortalized in the Dork Tower comic strip as Bill Blyden, Manager of Pegasaurus Games.
But ‘time waits for no one’ as the saying goes, and as I grow older I find that I have less patience for some things. More importantly, I’ve discovered that, in my 50s now, I no longer have the body of a twenty — or even thirty year-old. Even a half-day of standing on the carpeted concrete floors so common in retail establishments and convention halls is tough on my feet. I still walk to work most days, but lately, walking home has been a real chore, tired and footsore from standing for long periods.

I added up the time I’ve spent working at Pegasus. It came in three stints: from 1984 to 1993, I went from simple cashier to assistant manager to manager, and was partly responsible for opening Pegasus’s second store on Madison’s west side — the only Pegasus location still operating today. Seeing years of retail work stretching out ahead of me, I left in early 1993 to take a graphic design job in Texas. That ended badly, and I moved back home, living with my parents for the first few months until I found a rooming arrangement I could afford. I reapplied at Pegasus then, and in a couple of months a shift opened up, and I was back at it from 1994 to 1999. At that time, I was offered a full-time writing job of a journalistic nature: I researched and wrote articles on toys for the web portal Collecting Channel. Sadly, that job, dream-like though it was, fizzled out when it was clear the entrepreneurs who started it had no clear idea how to monetize the site. When the money ran thin, I and most of the other writers were let go. A month or two later, everyone else was out of a job and the site and its content were sold.

After that, I cast around a bit for a new job, landing a temporary retail gig at one of the late, lamented Kay-Bee toy stores in a mall near where I lived. I also worked for several months at Borders, and regret the loss of those stores even more. Finally in 2000, I landed the marketing manager job at ACD Distribution, a then growing distributor of hobby games, books, dice, and all sorts of assorted ancillary products. I started out as Marketing Manager, moved into purchasing, and later was promoted to Purchasing Manager before burn-out started to set in. While at ACD, I parlayed my contacts in the business into a nice side-gig writing game reviews and articles, which would serve me well later. ACD was kind of a high-pressure job; the company had become a national player in the hobby games market during my tenure, and by the time I’d been there for 5 years, Tracy was seeing signs that I needed to leave. She convinced me to do so, and I took a few jobs working in the games industry, as sales manager for Green Ronin Publishing and board game house Uberplay, still writing on the side.

It was not long after this that an old friend talked me into applying at Pegasus again, saying that the Boss-Lady, Lory, needed more people on staff she could trust. Having a steady if small flow of cash every week would help to offset the uncertainty of freelance pay schedules, so I once again stepped into the front lines of retail in 2006, and have worked there part time ever since. Adding it up, I’ve worked for Lory for about 26 years.

Twenty-six years is a long time – half a lifetime. Mr. Blyden discovered numerous frustrations with working in retail at the fictional game store he managed, and so have I in real life, but mostly, those are outweighed by the numerous friendships and friendly acquaintances I’ve made over the years of working at Pegasus. I’ve found most of my regular gaming buddies through Pegasus, and the majority of those friendships still survive, though time and distance has parted many of us from each other. In the long run, my time at Pegasus has proved invaluable. I often wonder — for the last twelve years, in fact — if I had worn out my welcome. The truth is, there are so may board games coming out these days that I can’t keep up – there are very few who can. I’m feeling a little past my shelf-life in that respect, so it’s time to finally call it quits. I’ve handed in my notice: Tuesday October 30 will be my last regular shift. Don’t be surprised if I still pop up now and then, pinch-hitting in an emergency; I live nearby, so it’s easier for me to get to Pegasus on short notice than for any of the managers.

Life goes on. There are still plenty of highly knowledgeable staff at Pegasus, most of whose information on games is more current than mine. I mean, I may know more about out of print titles than most anyone else on staff (except maybe Lory), but that’s hardly helpful in trying to sell someone a game that exists now, is it? I won’t miss working during the dreaded, exhausting holiday season, nor will I miss the endless hand-counting drudgery of annual inventory. What I will miss is the camaraderie, reminiscing with the old-timers about our favorite games of yore, and the near constant parade of friends and associates who’ve made working in retail a hell of a lot more fun than it would have been otherwise. I’m also grateful to Lory and her partners, Terry, Mark, and Jon, who provided me with gainful employment for all those years. I’d like to think they got their money’s worth out of me, and I hope they agree.

4 thoughts on “End of an Era

  1. I certainly got a lot out of your second run there, as I was at the peak of my board game buying life during that time. (Also bought plenty of Magic cards.) Thanks for all your recommendations!

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