Preface: I do not agree with GameStop as a whole. Their practices and corporate culture (especially after the COVID-19 fiasco) are an abomination. I do, however, love this little store.
The Mimosa Lane GameStop, which stood in the Fiesta Plaza at 211 NE 28th Street, hadn’t been there long, but it was part of the childhoods of a lot of nerdy kids on Fort Worth’s north side. As a person who grew up in this neighborhood, being a geek didn’t exactly gain you any sort of popularity. You could say that about a lot of places, but this one in particular had such a history of gang culture that being anything else would and could get you beaten up.
It wasn’t even the video game part that would make you a persona non grata. Video game were always prevalent in my early years. However, as we got older the types of video games people played would either make you look cool, or make you look like a complete dork. The kids in my classes at J.P Elder Middle School were into sports games, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and not much else. It was the mid-90s and Super Mario and his Sega counterpart Sonic, had fallen out of favor with the youth at my school. I was into the Phantasy Star series, Eternal Champions, and PC games like Command & Conquer. My friends, on the other hand, were into things like NBA Jam and Tekken.
My only outlets at the time were video game shops. The employees of Electronics Boutique at the mall were somewhat stodgy and stuck up. They didn’t want to talk to a middle school kid about video games. However, at Funcoland, the people there were geeks themselves, and they were more than willing to talk tips, give hints, cheat codes, and talk about the upcoming games. Their trade-in values were another thing, as I was raked against the coals when I tried to sell them my NES collection (I decided to keep them). Other than that, it was always a joyful experience talking to their employees. The problem was that the only Funcoland I knew about was at least a 25-minute drive from where I lived.
I quietly left videos in the next year or so. I would be pulled back in every now and then through my younger brother, who had a N64, a GameCube and a Sony PlayStation. The only places for him to get games at the time were the big box stores, Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, and Toys R Us. If I recall correctly, the Funcoland I used to shop at closed sometime in the late 90s. At some point around 2001-2002, a GameStop opened. It wasn’t anywhere near us, but it was a lot closer than the old Funcoland.
The people at this GameStop were rude and smarmy, and all under the age of 25. When I found out that Funcoland and GameStop were one in the same I was flabbergasted. I learned later that Funcoland/GameStop had been going around absorbing other video game sellers, like Babbages and EB Games. I heard former employees of these companies lament on how GameStop’s practices were bad enough that they wanted to quit. Also, managers of these stores were given a wage reduction and less hours when their store transitioned. This allowed for seemingly feral behavior by its new employees, who weren’t their best and brightest since a lot of former employees of these other companies had taken a hike. Right off the bat I hated GameStop, both for their terrible practices and also because of how these punk kids acted toward myself and my family.
2008 came along and a GameStop was opening in my neighborhood. Granted, I hadn’t been inside a GameStop in years, so I didn’t know that their culture had changed, and smart-mouthed teenagers were being held to standards in behaviors. They started putting the guest first. I noticed this right away after the manager behind the counter of this new GameStop had a smile on his face and answered any question I had. That made me smile. At the time I didn’t live in Fort Worth, so my trips to that store were not that frequent. But I always remembered the nice manager they had.
When my father took ill, I returned back to the north side. To pass the time I started going to Mimosa Lane GameStop whenever I had a free moment. I purchased and traded in a lot of games there. People were always warm and courteous. I met a lot of nerdy kids who reveled in the fact that they could finally be the nerdy kid they wanted to be without getting judged or threatened by anyone in school. It made me understand the draw of a place where you could be yourself. It made me slightly jealous that I didn’t have a place like that nearby, a place that I could escape to whenever social pressures became too much for me.
I attended a lot of midnight releases at this store. They were always fun, festive, lively. and sometimes had cosplayers. The next few years passed. I had been laid off by the tutoring center I was working at, and an opportunity arose for me to come work for the Mimosa Lane GameStop. Of course, I jumped at it. In a way it’s sort of a modern-day gamers’ rite of passage. I had heard from friends over the years who had worked there, and they all told me their horror stories. It couldn’t be that bad, could it?
While it was never fully that bad, it always wasn’t super great either. There were a lot of lows, typically when they started hammering home the Circle of Life gimmick that customers and employees both hated equally. Even if I had a great day sales-wise, it all came back to how many pro cards did I sell? How many pre-orders did I get? What about trade-ins? All of this wore on me after a long time. My district manager gave me hints and tips on basically how to rip people off. I didn’t adhere to any of this, and my COL score continued to dip. After a few more stress filled months, I finally decided it was time to go. I put in my two weeks notice and walked away from it.
It wasn’t all bad, though. I made a few lifelong friends. I wasn’t going to let the corporate machine dictate how I felt about this tiny store in the middle of the Barrio. My co-workers and I became like a family. We all went through the ringer together. With them I could vent my frustrations about the job and about some of the sketchy or abusive people who came in. Working there was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. It made me understand people’s frustrations toward the company, but it also gave me a view from the other side of the scope.
While I was never the happiest or most congenial employee, I made sure to go out of my way to possibly put an imprint on a kid’s life the way the old Funcoland employees did to me when I was in junior high. I had to remind myself of this whenever a guest would come in and ramble on and on about what games they liked and what they were looking forward to. In the end, it was just a person sharing how they feel about their hobby. That’s what was the most important thing about that little shop.
Sadly, about a month ago it was announced that the old Mimosa Lane store would be closing for good. I walked in on the last day to see my old pal Ralph. He was busy packing up over 12 years of memories and good times into boxes. The store was closing because the rent at the plaza had been raised. The store was in a very poor neighborhood, and they were barely surviving with last gen game sales being their bread and butter.
GameStop as a whole has a lot to work on, and with their most recent controversy, I’m sure they have even more detractors than they ever have before. However, that one little store was so special to me, and so special to a lot of the poor kids in my neighborhood. Sure, the Internet exists now, and people can go there to talk about their favorite games, but for those who just needed an outlet, this store was always there for them. I’ll never forget how it was one saving grace during a very difficult time in my life, when my father battled cancer. My only wish is that the remaining employees, the knowledgeable and caring staff that I knew, end up at stores that deserve them.