Shop is game for a challenge
PREPARE to sing ‘Wii shall not be moved!’ as the popularity of the computer console has failed to signal the end for an East Oxford board game shop.
Carol and John Benney with some of their games
Thirty years on, The Gameskeeper, in Cowley Road, is still going strong.
It was opened by husband and wife John and Carol Benney in 1981 and has seen dozens of other shops and restaurants come and go.
Mrs Benney, 59, said: “When we opened we thought this could be a viable business. “It took us two years to find premises and it was worth being patient until the right place came up, because we found this one. We live above the shop like shopkeepers of old.”
Mr Benney was brought up in a business background, his parents running a shoe shop, while Mrs Benney had studied accounting. She believes their shared skills and experience has helped the shop’s continued success.
She said: “Just knowing how to deal with people is hugely important, because unless you put your customers first, you do not get repeat business. “We have people who started shopping with us 30 years ago who are still shopping with us today, which is pretty astonishing.” Mrs Benney said customers ranged from keen gamers who travelled especially to buy specialist stock, to casual visitors seeking gifts.
In March, Cowley Road gift shop and fancy dress emporium Bead Games closed after 25 years. Other business on the street are fairing better, however. The nearby Hi-Lo Jamaican Eating House will celebrate its 30th anniversary at the end of this year, and Beeline Bicycles has been trading since the early 1980s.
Since the closure of Bead Games, Mrs Benney has received a string of queries from confused customers thinking The Gameskeeper was set to shut its doors. And she is keen to announce that her shop is still going strong.
She said: “I prefer to go to bookshops to buy books rather than go online, and a lot of gamers are the same.”
Mrs Benney said she and her husband, who is 74, hoped to continue working for “another couple of years”.
She added: “I hope we will find someone who would like to continue the business after us, because it would be a grave shame for Oxford to lose a shop like this.
“We have created something pretty special.”