Tucked away in the pleasant town of Glenside, PA lies a nugget of treasure for retro game enthusiasts like myself. And luckily it’s only down the street from me. 🙂
If you are into retro gaming, more than likely you have to resort to online shopping to get most, if not all of the games you want in the condition you desire. But now you don’t necessarily have to do all your buying over the internet with the increasing number of retro game shops opening. One such store, Classic Game Junkie, opened to the world in the summer of 2010. It provides people a physical place to gather, meet, talk about games, and yes, buy them too. I can say first hand the selection is vast, the customer service is top notch, the ambiance is excellent, and the prices are fair. Games for all the major systems are represented here from Atari to current gen. With more than 30,000 games for sale, there’s sure to be something there you would want.
I recently sat down with the owner of Classic Game Junkie, Frank Stanchek Jr., to discuss his store and some of his thoughts on gaming:
Masamune: Alright, so what made you decide to open up a retro game shop?
Frank: I’ve been doing games since I was a little kid. I love getting into games. That’s my passion. Even when I was like 11 I was selling games and buying them from the neighbors and then re-selling them to the other neighbors after cleaning them. I was making money when I was a little kid.
So as I got older the passion never really lifted. I did other things, had other jobs, went to school for engineering, got a degree, but the games were always there. I was always selling games on the side. So eventually I said “hey, how come I can’t make a career out of this?” So I started selling stuff online. I did that for about a decade. Eventually just moving into a shop was seamless. I just said “alright, it’s time to get a retail location.” As soon as we got a retail location, everything took off and we’ve been doing great here ever since.
Masamune: So about how many games do you have available for sale here at the shop?
Frank: Wow. I don’t know if I could give a honest answer to that. I would have to imagine at least 30,000 games in the shop right now. For every system, games ranging from Pong to the stuff that comes out next week I have in stock now, so it’s got to be some kind of ridiculous number like that. There’s a lot of games here.
Masamune: How were you able to amass such a huge inventory?
Frank: Like I said I’ve been buying and selling since I was a kid and I never stopped, so basically I been just filling up garages and sheds in the backyard where I started and it just kept growing, growing and growing. Through flea markets, garage sales, trade-ins, newspaper ads, private sales, collector deals, picking up people’s collections, and it’s just grown and grown and grown. Now I’m in this shop and I pretty much busted out of the doors of the shop too and we have enough stuff to fill up another shop or two. So that might be on the horizon just to have a place to put the stuff.
Masamune: Do you have any special events that you hold in the store?
Frank: We do. We have competitions, sometimes we have tournaments. We have a game swap coming up in August where people bring all their boxes of stuff be it vintage, new, whatever, and you know, they have a little swap meet. I’m thinking about doing a trivia contest in the near future. That will be fun, give away some free stuff. Brings people into the store. Yeah we do all kinds of stuff. We usually post the events on the Facebook page and soon the webpage after we get that under control.
Masamune: What do you think of the gaming industry today?
Frank: Stronger than its ever been but heading in a direction I’m not sure I’m entirely happy with. Ownership seems to be going out the window. Everybody wants to have games as a service, where it’s almost like you’re renting things to play. And the whole micro transaction things you’re seeing is very prolific with phones and stuff where they’re nickeling and diming you for a power-up in a game. That stuff worries the heck out of me. I don’t like that. I will never subscribe to that. And people seem to be buying into it a little too much. People are wising up a little bit lately but still, it’s proven to be very profitable and everybody’s doing it.
Like there was a meeting last week at Nintendo where one of the stockholders basically was under the impression that they should be charging extra to make Mario jump higher in their games! That scares the living hell out of me as a gamer and as a game store owner. That is not where I want to see games going; basically pay money to win the games. That’s horrible. So I’m a little worried it’s getting industry strong.
Indies are doing well, which is great. Retro is seeing a massive revival because the games are fun. So I like the games but I’m a little worried about the future.
Masamune: Why do you think games from the 80s and 90s are still so appealing in 2014?
Frank: Pretty much anything from Nintendo and up seems to be holding up really well. The graphics are good enough that it leaves a lot to the imagination. And there’s less hand holding back in the day and everything was fresh for the first time. People today are discovering these games have a lot going on. Mario is still fantastic. You know you look back on Mario and you’re like this is still awesome. The controls are very tight.
In the old games every reaction has an equal reaction instead of floaty mechanics. Everything was about gameplay back in the day. And today everything is getting by on graphics. I’m not saying there’s not good games with good gameplay today, that’s a gross overstatement of the problem. But the vintage stuff just holds up well. I mean that’s where it all came from. And they are still as much fun to play today as they were back then. Atari stuff is not holding up so well. It looks pretty dated. Some games you can pick up and immediately play. You can play Missile Command. Yeah I get this. This is fun. Pacman. Pacman is Pacman. Pacman’s always fun. But stuff like the Marios and the Zeldas, there are still just as awesome and people are discovering that they exist.
Some people are actually becoming disenchanted with the newer games. They are very complicated. Some are ridiculously complex with tons of buttons and overly competitive. But the old stuff, it just pulls you in. You’re addicted to pass this level and there’s not much hand holding and they are very unforgiving so you really wanna break through. Does that make sense?
Masamune: It makes perfect sense. Yeah.
Masamune: Do you offer services to customers that may live out of state or another country (Are you on Ebay or Amazon currently?)
Frank: I do. I actually started on Ebay for a decade. But I have not been selling online for the last few years because I’m so overwhelmed with the business we’re doing in the shop. And doing repairs and restorations on all the vintage consoles and the new stuff. So I haven’t been selling online that much lately but it’s something I’m meaning to get back into. If people want stuff, who are out of state, we do take calls and we will ship. That’s not a problem at all. We are always available. But we don’t have an active presence right now in terms of advertising our place where people can easily buy things and see what we have. That will probably will be coming soon though.
Masamune: Among all your items in your store, is there one you are most proud of or was the hardest to get?
Frank: The most interesting item I have is the Nintendo World Championship hat that’s on display in my glass case in the store. I didn’t acquire that from anywhere. I actually bought that while I was at the Nintendo World Championships participating and competing. So that has a lot of personal meaning to me. The price on that would be astronomically high! Everything has a price, but it’s the only thing I probably wouldn’t sell unless it was completely insanely ridiculous because I was wearing that hat when I was up on the stage playing in the Championships and that was an awesome memory I have. In fact my dad took me there. It was great. That’s probably the best thing I have going.
Masamune: That’s nice.
Masamune: What else do you sell besides video games?
Frank: We try to strictly make it about video games. We do have like tablets, phones and stuff as they come in. I’m not gonna turn away good profit. And you know you can play games on them so I gonna wedge that in there as it were. I use the term loosely. You can play games on them so I let that go. I try to keep out anything that’s not game related. I’ll carry toys, but they have to be related to video games. There’s things I can pull in here and make money on but I made a conscious decision to concentrate on being really great at one thing and that’s games. So I try not to stray too far from that.
Masamune: Do you have any interesting stories to share about strange or weird visitors to the store?
Frank: Without getting too personal? I mean we could be here all day! I would hate to throw anyone under the bus, but goofy stuff happens on a daily basis. We did have one thief who was quite interesting. I have no problem throwing him under the bus. He came in here, he looked around, he went over to one of the X-box sections and he managed to stick a fully boxed Kinect, which is like a foot and a half long box, it’s like 8 inches each side squared, it’s a huge box … and he managed to get it all the way down his pants and waddle to the door before we caught him. He made it into the vestibule before we got him. He waddled out like a Oompa Loompa! It was the most ridiculous thing we ever seen. I do have it on tape for anyone that’s interested in seeing it. It is on the store’s Facebook page. If you go back to I think 2011. That was pretty nuts.
Masamune: Do you have games for every major system ever made?
Frank: I would like to say we have them for most of them and the ones we don’t have we are always trying to get. There’s a few things mostly imported stuff that we don’t have, but I will be hardpressed not to have the common stuff. We have Neo-Geo, 3D0, Atari Lynx, TurboGrafx 16, Turbo Duo, Turbo CD, that’s some of the hardest stuff to find in places like this.
Some of the goofy stuff overseas like the Bandai Pippin I never had or seen one of those. You know the FM Towns? I never had one of those here. I do have Famicom, Super Famicom, and Famicom Disk System. I never had a bulky drive for the N64. I’ve always wanted to have one. They’re expensive and none have crossed my path recently. But we do have mostly everything
Masamune: Do you have any advice for budding video game collectors out there?
Frank: Be strong! You gotta compete with people like me for that stuff! I got to be completely honest, you got to wake up at the crack of dawn for all those flea markets and you got to be on your phone 24 hours a day to catch things on Craig’s List. It’s the only way to stay competitive. If you’re looking for stuff, you’ll have to find it through me or get up earlier than me. That’s the reality. There’s a lot of competition out there and the retro scene is very very thriving and hot right now. Everyone’s into retro and it’s huge and everybody wants it, so the price is going up and the supply is going down. People are wising up to what things are worth, which is scary in a collector’s market for the people who generally want to get the stuff.
Then there’s always the in-betweeners. I’m part collector and obviously part business man. I managed to turn my passion into a business which means I might of been doing something right. So it means I’m getting the stuff. Don’t wanna sound too cocky but you gotta get up at the crack of dawn. The early bird, worm. All that stuff. It’s difficult, but there are deals to be had out there. There’s ways to get things. Also never be afraid to haggle with people. Even if you go into a shop, they know what they paid for stuff. As long as they can make a little money, most of the people won’t have a problem parting with it.
Masamune: Do you have a personal favorite system?
Frank: This is an easy one. The NES was my favorite system of all time. I was young, I was about 9 years old when I got my first one. I think it was ’86 when I finally got it. I saw it on the market and my cousin had one and it was so different than what I had on my Atari. Yeah I was so jealous. The screen was scrolling sideways, you were able to complete a level and go to another one with a whole new board! You really didn’t see that in Atari games back in the day. It was very repetitive screens that just changed mildly.
So the NES was like fascinating and the games just kept getting better and better and bigger and then I saw something like Zelda which nobody ever did anything like that before. All the screens were pretty much a huge open world to explore and secrets everywhere. So Nintendo holds a special place in my heart and til this very day I still play Nintendo with my kids. So definitely Nintendo.
Masamune: Did the Anger Video Game Nerd visit your shop recently?
Frank: Yeah he was actually up here in February. And Mike Mattei is actually a frequent visitor to the shop. He buys a lot of the games you see in his videos from here. And some of the machines as well. They’re actually local. They’re not far from here. I’m not gonna say where they live, but they’re localish. This is actually a hotbed. Newgrounds is actually down the street from this shop. I don’t know if anyone is actually familiar with Newgrounds. They do all the flash videos, if you ever heard of Ego Raptor, he’s part of Newgrounds. He’s not down the street. I think he’s in California. They do visit. They have a yearly meetup up there and they throw a heck of a party.
The Game Chasers were just here last week. I don’t know if you ever heard of them. Alpha Omega Sin was here with them. They were doing a video at the shop. They’re all really cool guys. James is a great guy. He’s very humble when you meet him. He doesn’t seem full of himself at all and Mike is a really great guy. He’s very down to earth too so yeah they were here in February. We had a big signing. There was a line halfway down the street! Someone brought in a huge Star Fox statue and got that signed by James which I tried to buy from him! He would just not sell it! It was cool but I never seen one before. It would of completed my set. I have a Pikachu and a Mario out there.
James doesn’t frequent the shop. He tries to keep a low profile but Mike don’t care he shows up every 3 or 4 weeks.
Masamune: Do you get a lot of visitors from out of state that come here? I noticed a woman you were speaking with earlier today said she was from Cincinnati.
Frank: Yeah she came up from Ohio. People plan their vacations, they have trips or they have business meetings and they look for retro gaming shops in the general area. We get visitors from all over like Texas for example. Delaware all the time. People within 2-3 hours actually drive just to come here which is really cool.
I’m always flattered when I hear that. It means I’m doing something right. If I’m not doing it right, I want someone to tell me. But people have come from Virginia, Florida, up and down the East Coast. I see people all the time and then I’m really shocked when people come from the West Coast and say they’ve actually heard of us. That’s cool. I feel awesome when I hear that. I just want to be keep doing it right. Because if I start screwing it up, I hope someone tells me.
But yeah tons of visitors. They make it part of their vacation plan. I had one couple who brought their kids and they were coming from Britain. They said they googled the area and they said the kids weren’t going to the trip unless they could stop at this shop. I guess that was their way of strong arming them. And they spent a lot of money too. But yeah we get a lot of visitors.
Masamune: Well I want to thank you for allowing me to interview you today. I’m very appreciative and you’re a very good host. Thank you.
Frank: Thank you. I have a lot of fun doing this kind of stuff. Hopefully it helps you in whatever you’re trying to pursue.
Masamune: Yeah defintely.