(Featured photo is of Paul Rogers at the new location of ABX, formerly Augusta Book Exchange. Ron Baxley Jr./Augusta Good News)
By moving to a new location in Martinez, the Augusta Book Exchange has made a Clark Kent-like transformation into Superman.
Its former space on Gordon Highway had its charms such as resident cats, who have been relocated to a house, and the comic book posters lining its windows and walls. For decades, the old location of Augusta Book Exchange served as a gathering place for many into popular culture, books, gaming and comics. But the aging building showed its wear and tear.
The new location, a former hair supply business near a Walmart Neighborhood Market, at 280 S. Belair Rd., has walls painted with three different colors associated with Superman: red, blue and yellow. Superhero décor adorns its walls as well.
Wooden shelves with comics and a section for local and regional authors and artists line one wall, a large section for playing games is in the middle, and gaming supplies and games in general are on the other main wall of the store.
Games are emphasized even more in the new location.
One integral figure missing from the move is Donna Mallard, who recently died. She worked at the store for many years alongside her significant other, Paul Rogers, store owner.
Overall response to the recent move has been positive, Rogers said.
“Most of our customers, when told where we were moving to, said that they either lived very close to the new location or worked in the area,” he said.
But for others, it’s not the location that is the draw. Even if that means a longer drive.
Albert Schiavo of Aiken started gaming in Augusta after a search led him across the Savannah River.
“There was no place like this in Aiken,” he said.
He’d gotten interested in trading card games in his native New Jersey, and when he moved to the Aiken area, he looked for a group of people who enjoyed games as much as he did.
“Coming to the store on the weekend has been my only true time to play card games with others. I am too busy with work during the week,” Schiavo said.
Schiavo traveled to the new location on a recent Sunday to play Yu-Gi-Oh!, a Japanese manga trading card game.
He said he also plays another card game called Digimon but not as many people play it.
“Growing up, I did not have many people who had similar interests,” said Schiavo.
Meeting for the card games allows him to share interests with others.
Just for the early part of this card game, a small group of four or five had already gathered and quickly socialized.
Some of them said the new space was “awesome” and “cool.”
The game had brought them figuratively closer together as friends.
But they appeared to be able to spread out more because the gaming space seems larger in the new store.
However, the store’s old location had approximately 4,000 square feet where the new location has only approximately 3,000 square feet.
“I have about double the gaming space,” Rogers said.
When moving to the new space, Rogers also changed part of his business model. Augusta Book Exchange had a used book component at its old location which has been phased out. All those books and their shelving, which took up about a fourth of the old location or more, have been sold or eliminated, clearing up plenty of room in the new location.
Also, books can no longer be exchanged for others at the new location (new regional books can still be purchased there). In fact, Rogers said he is going to utilize an often used nickname for the store in marketing to eliminate the exchange idea, calling it simply ABX.
Rogers has ordered more board games for ABX which should be coming in soon. Not only card games but Dungeons and Dragons will continue to be played at the store. Tabletop games with miniatures such as Warhammer and Kings of War will also be played.
The store will continue to host signings, Free Comic Book Day and Halloween ComicFest each year.
A grand opening for the new location in a high growth area will be happening on Monday, May 29, Memorial Day, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Food will be served, but the menu has not been finalized.
There will be a multi-genre book-signing event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 10 for Tales of The Yellow Brick Road 2023, a multi-genre YBR Publishing anthology. YBR Publishing is a regional publisher based in Ridgeland, S.C.
Ron Baxley Jr. is a correspondent for Augusta Good News.
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