Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good bye American Eagles

We got the word a couple of weeks ago that American Eagles in Seattle would be closing its doors. That's too bad, not because Eagles was a big loss to the gaming world--it's not.  I think it's just symbolic of what seems to be happening to hobbies like miniature gaming, plastic modeling and model railroading.  These are hobbies that seem to have generational appeal and unfortunately the generation of enthusiasts is slipping away.
American Eagles in Lake City.  Currently holding a closing business sale, its last day is April 9th.

I'm not going to bash younger people for their interest in video games or other interests.  Nor will I bark at those of my age for not doing more to interest kids in their prized interests.  I've been out there and recruited and it's really hard.  I feel for people like my father, who is a lifelong Freemason, and represents generations of Masonic members, but couldn't draw me in.  My generation walked away from service organizations like the Elks, Lions, and Kiwanis in droves, and now for whatever reason, our interests too may be doomed to the utter fringes of hobby interests.

American Eagles will be missed.  I was a frequent visitor in the late 70's and early 80's.  Though I never found it to be the mecca for gaming supplies, I was also forgiving of this failure.  As miniature lines grew, Mike Edwards simply couldn't stock 'em all.  Like many of my friends, I ordered from Modeler's Mart and other catalog operations.  Still I bought what I could there.  Rules, books, the Courier, were all frequent pickups on the way home from my job in Crown Hill.  For a while we held monthly game days at the Ballard store.  But the gentrification of Ballard forced the move, and Mike's retirement pointed toward the end for AE.  It was just too far out of the way for me down here. What the move didn't kill, the internet did.
Seattle Times photo of George Edwards contemplating.  Like me he's probably wondering where the next axe will fall.
In the  South Puget Sound community I worry about losing those bricks and mortar stores.  Where can we get simple hobby items, the foundation of what we do like, CA glue, Testor's spray paint (which I use for primer) and Dullcoat, sheet styrene without having to find an online source, or resort to craft shop giants like Jo-Ann's and Michaels which are completely under resourced.  We see this in the shrinking number of paint lines.  While miniature ranges have exploded and we have more choices than ever, those fundamental building blocks are more difficult to come by.  The last hobby shop in Puyallup closed nearly a decade ago.  The Hobbytown store in Parkland, a delightful shop catering to RC aircraft enthusiasts, where I can get styrene, brass wire and tubing, and CA glue is frightfully quiet and located on a recovering Garfield St.

 In any case I wish George Edwards well.  There was a great article on the closing of American Eagles in the Seattle Times this morning.  I don't believe he could have done more than he did, and while I'm sorry to see the shop go, I understand.


DeanM said...


I read the link on the NHMGS Yahoo Group about AE closing. You make a good point (analogy?) with the membership, or lack thereof, of organizations like the Elks, etc. I'm actually awed that AE lasted so long. Growing up in Hawaii in the 60's & 70's there was a great store called Pete's Modelcraft in Ala Moana Shopping Center. It faded away & disappeared without fanfare in the mid-70's I think. That said, it was what was got me hooked on model building & eventually historical gaming. Regards, Dean

Eli Arndt said...

This is saddening. I recall biking miles with my friends to go to AE to pour through the revolving racks of miniatures, lookign for the just the perfect Citadel and Ral Partha monsters. We bought our Martian Metals there and occasionally scavenged some Heritage figures from the loose packs.

It was where almost all of my early miniatures came from.

Anonymous said...

I visited this shop every time I went to Seattle to see my sister. To a gamer/modeler living in the UK the shop seamed like a mecca of hobby goodness.
Most of the hobby shops closed in the 80's where I live and you had to drive along way to find one.

Kurt Weihs said...

I am sad to see American Eagles go but I don't see it as an indication that the gaming industry is failing. We've got some great brick and mortar stores locally. Like all industries, gaming is in continual change as interests in various subjects change. Some hobby shops manage to keep up by remaining flexible and keeping up with trends. In the late '70's this trend was D&D and roleplaying. In the '90's this was Magic:the Gathering. After Magic it was Eurogames. While American Eagles embraced roleplaying they didn't do the same thing for Magic (they were quite resistant to it IIRC). As Eurogames became popular they still didn't keep up and were pretty much left in the dust after that. It's sad, but not a surprise either.

Gaming today doesn't resemble the gaming I did in the 70's...it's better. The bar for component quality is much higher, the willingness to explore new rules mechanics is much higher, the quality of paints and other peripherals is lightyears beyond what it was, and miniature sculpting is wow!

I have noticed that the age of the people willing to do historical gaming is getting higher as well and agree that our particular niche might be going the way of the HO model railroader. However, non historical miniature gaming is alive and well among younger audiences. There is some hope, though. Flames of War is pretty popular among a pretty good range of ages. Well-sculpted plastics are starting to appear in greater numbers and represent a bunch of different historical periods. I think all we really need is a really good, flashy rules set that focuses on quick play, good graphics, and good stories. More importantly it needs to be continuously supported by its manufacturer. For games to survive the customers need to know that the product is a living thing. Once support ends or is perceived to be ending the game will be dropped like a hot potato.