Meeplemart: Best Gaming Store Ever?
Toronto’s Meeplemart has it all: a deep and wide selection of board, card, and miniatures games and accessories from all major gaming companies, and a great many small ones. They offer everything in their bricks and mortar store and through an equally well-organized website, all at the same almost unbeatable price. They ship for less than 9 bucks Canadian flat rate and your stuff arrives in three days flat, with real-time tracking. Gamer heaven! Or something pretty close to it. But is it the best gaming store ever?
You can probably tell that the answer to the question, “Would I shop here again?” is going to be a resounding Yes! In fact, several photos in this post are at least 3 years old so it’s clear I’m a return customer. I rarely make a trip near the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) without stopping in even if it means a big detour. If you’re going to be anywhere near Toronto, even if you’ve got a couple of hours layover at the airport, it’s worth the trip.
Let’s cut to the chase and answer the question: Is it the best gaming store ever? You’ll find details about what’s on the shelves along with pictures and a virtual tour down below.
Good, Better, Best
Meeplemart has an equal or better in many departments. 401 Games, about a 15 minute walk from Meeplemart, equals it in price, dice selection, and board games and has a better open play area and collectible card single service. Many train and model shops are equal, but rarely better, in terms of paint ranges and hobby tools but don’t carry near the amount of the popular 1/56th scale model kits or smaller war game scales. Meeplemart does not carry traditional larger 1/25, 1/35, or 1/48 scale airplane, car, or military models.
Where Meeplemart really excels is the huge range of sci-fi, fantasy, and historical miniatures and game systems they stock. All of the major and minor war game systems – from Ancient Egyptians to 40K – has a full set of everything on hand all the time. Combine this with the fantastic board games and all the accessories; there’s little question that in price, selection, and range Meeplemart wins hands down.
It takes more than price and stock to make a great store though. Meeplemart’s staff are really busy all the time. There’s someone behind the cash and at least three people running the aisles of the huge store frantically pulling stock to quickly fill and ship those on-line and lay away orders. In result, I don’t get a homey feeling from Meeplemart. You can always find someone to ask about where to find a particular item and usually they’ll take a very quick walk with you to the item, point it out, and then get back to work. Both on-line and in-store customer service is brisk, efficient, and polite but this is not a place to call home-away-from-home, and to be fair this is probably not their aim.
“Third Place Theory” tells us that after home and work people are looking for a third place to be anchors of their community life and facilitate and nurture wider, more creative interaction. An ideal place needs to be highly accessible, welcoming, involve regulars, and both new and old friends can be found there. Think old school barber shops and the traditional pub.
Meeplemart is a victim of its own success in this regard. Areas once given over to gaming space are now filled with shelves of games. You won’t find really cool display boards, like this Egyptian one, anymore. You will still find the beginnings of a great “Third Place” here: brief opportunities with staff and customers to share excitement about a new game, some banter, and an area (now greatly reduced) for gaming where game demos are scheduled on a regular basis. Overall, shopping at Meeplemart is a joy for gamers of all stripes because of the quantity and quality of the product but you’ll need to bring a friend along if your idea of the best game store also includes a social sharing experience.
EDIT: As of June 1, 2017, Meeplemart has permanently closed it’s playing space citing theft and destruction of terrain and other items in the play area itself.
Have you been to Meeplemart or shopped at their on-line store? Is it the best gaming store ever? Feel free to do the poll at the bottom and leave your thoughts in the comments.
A Virtual Tour of Meeplemart
There are at least 8 aisles of board games, floor to ceiling, A to Z
Miniatures Games, full ranges of just about everything
Dice, card sleeves and storage, Paint and building supplies
And that’s about half the store. For the rest visit their website or, better still, go visit the store in person. You won’t regret it. The first time you go leave yourself two hours if you want to really investigate all the aisles. Their clearance side room alone is bigger and has more stock than most small game stores.