A Cool Place to Be

In the beginning, there was Pastime Hobbies. And according to its regulars, it was good. While other stores came and went, Pastime Hobbies served gamers in Port Huron for over 20 years.
Jeff Kenny worked at Pastime for his father Gary in charge of games. In 2009, Jeff branched off from Pastime Hobbies and founded Cool City Games. And the gamers of Port Huron followed.
“I am the Moses of gaming, and these are my people,” joked Kenny.
Located just north of the local comic shop and pizza place, Cool City Games has become the newest home to the gaming scene. Walk through the front door and you’ll be greeted by miniatures, cards, books and board games.
Come in through the back door, and you’ll see where the magic happens. Space marines battle aliens on hostile planets. Jedi clash with Sith lords for control of the empire. Planeswalkers attack each other with spells and creatures.
The game room is the cultural hub of Cool City. Board games, a poker set and boxes of cards line the back wall. Patrons sit at tables, pitting their skills against one another. A sign hangs over the wall reading, “Beware of Steve,” referring to Kenny’s brother.
The game room was one of the most important factors, according to Kenny. “I could still use more space.”
The split from Pastime Hobbies was, “something my father and I had been discussing for several years,” according to Kenny. “It came sooner than I thought it would.”
“An opportunity presented itself for me to buy a portion of that business,” said Kenny. With his father’s blessing, Kenny opened the doors to Cool City Games March 4, 2009.
According to employee Mike Beaver, the first item sold by the store was a miniature for the tabletop war-game “Warhammer.” “Warhammer” would also be the first game played at the store.
Cool City regular John Bright prefers the new space. “[In Pastime Hobbies] you were off in a separate room,” said Bright. “You didn’t feel so much part of the store, whereas here you’re almost integrated.”
“I think it’s great,” said Christine Carr, Bright’s girlfriend and business partner. “No offense to Gary, but I like this place better.”
“Pastime was a hobby store with a game room,” said Bright.
“And this is a gaming store,” added Carr.
Ask anyone why they keep coming back to Cool City, and the answer is the same: the sense of community.
“For 15 years I’ve built up a very, very loyal base of customers that continue to support me,” said Kenny.
“Jeff wants a very ‘Cheers’ environment, plain and simple,” said Bright. “He’s created a very club-like atmosphere.”
In addition to being regulars at Cool City games, Bright and his girlfriend also run “Magic: The Gathering” tournaments and has a business within the store buying and selling cards.
“We’re not in it for pure profit; we’re here to basically provide a hobby for ourselves and everybody else,” said Bright.
While not officially an employee, Bright has become another helpful face, ready to assist players with any questions they might have.
“It usually has a pretty good atmosphere,” said SC4 librarian Brennan Murphy. “A lot of different people come in to play different games. It’s a good place to go if you want to pick up a game.”
Even the younger crowd has embraced Cool City games.
“It’s great,” said Port Huron High School student Justin Martin. “Everybody is friendly. People come in, and they always want to help out. And it’s great that they’re not mad because we’re the younger crowd. They actually kind of encourage the younger crowd.”
“They’re everyday people,” said fellow student Kyle Gratz.
Financially, Cool City’s first year has been a good one.
“I would attribute it to the niche that I’m catering to, and the fact that there really isn’t any other competition,” said Kenny.
According to Kenny, business picks up whenever a new subset of “Magic: The Gathering” is released. “Going through the books, it just glares out at you whenever those weekends are.”
While business has been good, it hasn’t been perfect. Kenny noted a trend toward “down-spending” thanks to the local economy. Regulars who might have supposed multiple hobbies are now only nurturing one or two.
The new business also had its share of surprises, including a “disappointing” holiday season. “I was used to Pastime Hobbies’ holiday season, where we sold trains and all those ‘big ticket’ items,” said Kenny.
Holiday season aside, Kenny says he has no complaints. “It’s been great with foot traffic from the college.”
Cool City Games has kept afloat financially, but Kenny and others said money is a secondary goal of the store.
“I’ve got exactly what I bargained for,” said Kenny. “Probably about 75 percent of my customers have become pretty good friends. It’s a nice position to be in.”

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