Video games, for whatever reason, are relegated to Seattle's malls and gigantic retailers like Fred Meyer. Sadly, local gamers only have two exceptions to the generic choices... and one of those is GameTown, a soulless hole off Aurora which doesn't count.
Leaves one option, then: the International District's Pink Gorilla. Make that two options—PG is about to open a second spot in the U. District.
[caption id="attachment_15285" align="alignnone" width="550" caption="Inside the International District's Pink Gorilla"][/caption]
Since 2005, PG has sat quietly in a multi-shop complex in the ID, one block from Uwajimaya, where its obsessive staff stocks a dreamy selection of rare and Japanese video games. Sandwiched between a manga/anime toy shop and an Asian video store, PG caters nicely to its neighbors' demographic, though English-speaking geeks have as much to enjoy, from toys and dolls to a cherry-picked selection of classic games. It's a candyland. But at less than 300 square feet, it's cozy.
After years of trying, co-owners Nathan Paine and Greg Hess have finally landed their dream retail location: Right on the freakin' Ave. "We'd always wanted to open a second store," clerk Mike Norman says, and the gamer crew of Pink Gorilla will open the doors to their U District shop next week (fingers are crossed for Monday, October 5th).
Norman says the new spot, at 4341 University Way, has "triple" the space of the original location, but it looks even bigger than that, as the place has room for old-school, coin-op arcade games. Talk about an ideal neighborhood hangout; the U District is already buzzing about its first dedicated game store in nearly a decade, and PG will stock plenty of new-school games for the college crowd, as well.
The growing chain has also recently released its own collectible card game, built up a successful line of PG-branded merch, and sold gobs of games at events like Seattle's own Penny Arcade Expo. Even a recent name change (once "Pink Godzilla," 'til lawyers came a-callin') hasn't disrupted business.
Still, does the chain expect long-term success in the face of giants like Best Buy? The second store is an obvious sign of upward mobility, but a less obvious sign is that they have what shops like GameStop don't: A lovable staff of 20- and 30-somethings who rap obsessively (not condescendingly) about their favorite hobby.
"I wouldn't want to cast a spell with that staff," Norman says at the ID location as he hands a game-related figurine to a customer, also in his 20s. After their two-minute conversation about the quirky, immensely Japanese Prinny game, five Korean middle-school kids storm the shop. Without missing a beat, Norman shouts that the card games they'd been awaiting had arrived, as if he were working a deli counter and serving his favorite neighborhood kids "the usual."