‘Everybody’s a gamer’: Get your fix of gaming at growing Hip Strip store

Retrofix owner Josh Wells has always been a gamer, he says, even through careers in social work and business.

Surrounded by shelves of vintage video games, board games and more cards than he can count, Retrofix owner Josh Wells is intent on building a gaming community in Missoula.

“Everybody’s a gamer,” Wells said. “Some people just haven’t found their game yet.”

Wells opened the game store on Missoula’s Hip Strip in October 2015 after the Great Falls Retrofix had been open for three years.

After two years in Missoula, Wells said business is expanding rapidly. A renovation is set to take place in the next couple of months, but if business keeps growing, Retrofix will have to find a bigger home.

“The Missoula gaming community has really embraced us,” Wells said. “At some point during the next year or so, we’ll have to find a larger space.”

Beyond offering a basic retail experience for the niche gamer, the store has built a reputation in the community for offering a diverse variety of intro-level competitive card game events.

Michael DeBuff, rights, grins as his opponent Charles Overy defeats him in a game of Magic: The Gathering. DeBuff and Overy were playing a warm-up game before participating in Retrofix’s weekly Friday Night Magic. (Katy Spence/Missoula Current)

One of the most popular events is Friday Night Magic tournaments, Wells said.

“Magic: The Gathering” is a popular trading card game which requires players to build decks and compete in one-on-one competitions. Friday Night Magic can draw up to 40 competitors, Wells said.

Because some games can be intimidating for beginners, Retrofix also offers events specifically for new players. Wells said the community is supportive and welcoming to newcomers.

“[Customers] often donate cards for new players or other items to help people get started,” Wells said.

Wells said Retrofix is about building a community where players can connect in a safe environment. He added that cultivating community is the key to building a sustainable business, especially in the age of online shopping.

“When you take the approach of a game store being a community resource, the community will support it,” Wells said.

Lucas Hawksley shows off a very rare card he just discovered in a new pack of Magic: The Gathering cards in Retrofix. (Katy Spence/Missoula Current)

University of Montana student Lucas Hawksley played his first Magic tournament at Retrofix. Hawksley said he likes that Retrofix tends to be more casual than some other venues in Missoula.

“There’s a lot of people that look out for each other and help everybody out,” Hawksley said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s a community with open arms for everybody.”

Hawksley bought a booster pack of the new Magic set in preparation for Friday’s event. He said he likes the creativity and mental stimulation that comes with playing Magic.

Employee Hannah Bergman has worked at Retrofix for nearly a year. She said Retrofix’s welcoming and inclusive ideals create a safe space, especially for shy gamers.

“We make it a point to be very welcoming and inclusive,” Bergman said.

Retrofix is located on Missoula’s Hip Strip. Friday Night Magic starts at 7 p.m. and costs $15 to enter. The event typically lasts for three hours. Other Retrofix events can be found on their online calendar.

Retrofix employee Hannah Bergman stands among games and paraphernalia at the checkout counter of the store, which is located on Missoula’s Hip Strip. (Katy Spence/Missoula Current)