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story.lead_photo.caption The owners of Mimics JC, John Gaddy (front left), Heather Gaddy (top left), Chelsea Thompson (top right) and Andrew Thompson (bottom right), play the board game Talisman on Wednesday evening, June 9, 2021. Mimics JC, located at 312 Lafayette St., has several rooms designated for certain activites, such as board games, reading, card games and studying. Photo by Jason Strickland / News Tribune.

A new gaming venue in Jefferson City is hoping to create a safe, comfortable space for all local gamers to enjoy.

Mimics JC held a soft opening last weekend at its new spot at 312 Lafayette St. as the business continues to get the space ready for an official grand opening in July. The business, which bills itself as a gaming lounge, is starting with offering only staffed business hours, mostly in the afternoon and evenings, but will soon offer 24/7 access to members.

"It'll be like a 24-hour fitness or one of those types of gyms," said John Gaddy, one of four owners of Mimics JC.

The shop is owned by Gaddy and his wife, Heather, while friends Andrew (Andy) Thompson and his wife, Chelsea, help run the business.

The idea for the business stemmed from John Gaddy and Andrew Thompson's experiences working together and playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. At some point, they decided to start running tournaments, Gaddy said. Before the global pandemic erupted in spring 2020, the pair was running tournaments out of Campus Coworking Space and Capital Arts Gallery.

Once the pandemic arrived, in-person events were canceled due to public health concerns, and they turned to ordering and selling products instead, Gaddy said.

"That's how we got the capital together so that we could actually get a shop going" as soon as pandemic restrictions lifted, Gaddy said.

But while the shop will carry a limited selection on hand of products for purchase and staff will order any merchandise not carried, the goal of Mimics JC is really to provide a safe space for all gamers in Mid-Missouri.

Gaddy said one issue facing small game stores is the thin profit margin and difficulty competing with giants like Amazon and Target that have cheaper distribution costs.

"The thought was how can we take the model of what it is to be a local gaming store and turn it around so that we have as low overhead as possible but can actually provide the kind of space that gamers want," Gaddy said. "Because at the end of the day I really want a nice place to go play and hang out with my friends."

The owners agreed an important aspect of Mimics JC is the drive to be inclusive to all interested gamers, not just those who may fit an existing stereotype of gamers, one that is traditionally straight, white and male. Heather Gaddy said she and Chelsea Thompson have spoken in the past about spots they've gone to that their husbands feel completely comfortable in, but it's a different situation for them.

"I'm not really going to stay there, and I'm sure not going to drop my 14-year-old child off to play," Heather Gaddy said. "So we really want to curate and develop a space that is more inclusive and friendly to more than just your classic gamers."

Thompson said the business has installed cameras in each room, and while they want to protect the property of the business, the main reason for the cameras is the safety of customers and members. John Gaddy said they are continuing to work with security experts to make sure they create as safe a space as possible and that "marginalized groups get as much protection as possible when they're here."

That focus also helps the shop as it seeks to reach out to those younger than 18 who are looking for a space to safely hang out with friends. John Gaddy said there is a specific membership option for students younger than 18, as their access will be restricted to no later than 10 p.m. Those younger than 14 will be required to be accompanied by an adult, Gaddy said, and one room, called the library, will be restricted to those under 18 during certain hours so they can freely hang with peers.

"We want it to be a safe space, we want it to have cameras, we want to know that we can protect people as well as protect what's ours and make sure that kids have a place that they can be and that parents are comfortable with them here," Thompson said.

The shop offers a variety of rooms or "lounges," including one specific for role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. The shop's membership tiers will include different levels, with none costing more than $19.99 per month and some including specific access to various lounges, merchandise discounts, game rentals and even day passes for guests.

"You can come in and game whenever you want," Gaddy said, describing the mantra of Mimics JC. "We'll do pre-orders and events, but it'll really just be a nice, open space for people to come use when they want to."

For the opening, Gaddy said, they are running a special on the first two months of membership for $24.99 with member names being added to what he called the Mimics Pantheon, a founder's wall recognizing early supporters.

"That's basically to get people in here so they can experience the space and see what they like and give us as much feedback as possible so that we can improve it," Gaddy said.

The staff has already begun setting up weekly tournaments for different games such as Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! and have a Dungeons and Dragons community event set for June 27. In addition to offering a variety of games to play on site, the business will have a loaning library so customers can take a game home to try. Gaddy and Thompson said they have all kinds of games on hand and can order more on request.

"We don't want to limit people from experiencing new things," Thompson said.

For now, the business is open during staffed hours, tentatively set for 5-9 p.m. Monday, 5-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and 2-7 p.m. Sunday. Mimics JC will have a grand opening in July, but no date has yet been set, which is when memberships and 24/7 access will begin.

As they continue to set up for the grand opening, Gaddy said, they are looking for community organizers who can help develop different individual gaming communities connected to the store. Anyone interested in lending their expertise or learning more about Mimics JC can visit Facebook.com/MimicsJC, stop by the shop at 312 Lafayette St. or call 573-340-8452.

Know of any business happenings around Jefferson City? Let us know at [email protected] newstribune.com.

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