Steven Smith traded in his Xbox and video games for fatherhood.
Now that his daughter is 2, Smith finds himself getting out of the house for a couple hours on his days off to play a choice selection of video games on either the Xbox 360 or Playstation 2 at Game Lair, a locally owned take on GameStop with better trade-in values.
Co-owner Joel Lohry, regularly sporting a black cowboy hat, runs the day-to-day operations of the store attending to each customer who walks through the doors of his month-old business at 1918 Geneva St.
At video game stores like GameStop, trade-in values are fixed, Lohry said, but because he’s the owner, he can negotiate with his customers on values of a game.
"I can do that on the fly," he said.
He saw a need in Sioux City for a local video game shop, and opened for business on Nov. 11.
The store stocks new and used games, but unlike his corporate competition, Lohry also deals in retro video games and consoles, something Siouxlanders formerly had to troll for in area pawn shops.
"There is a strong sense of nostalgia that pervades gamer culture," Lohry, 29, said.
It's those retro consoles that sell the fastest, Lohry said. A Nintendo 64 didn’t last on the shelf for more than an hour, and Super Nintendos last less than a day.
"We can fix them up," said Lohry who has a background in computer repair. He can order parts and fix anything from Xbox CD drives to iPhone screens.
But that’s not what has Smith heading to the store a few times a week. He comes for the gaming cage filled with 32-inch flat-screen TVs -- the ideal size for playing "Call of Duty" -- and black leather chairs rigged with speakers.
For 30 minutes, Game Lair charges $5, but Smith has a membership for $35 a month (or $350 a year).
"The guys who come in here," Lohry said, "I know them by name."
That’s Lohry’s other goal with the store -- to create a community that taps into the social aspects of video games, something Lohry said has become more prevalent.
Eventually, he hopes to start a league with a local take on professional gaming competitions. The Game Lair membership also offers free league entry.
For Smith, Game Lair is a place to relax just like others might relax at a movie.
"Basically you can pick what you want to do in the games," said Smith who started gaming at 4 years old with "Aladdin" on the Genesis. "Pick your own ending instead of letting a crappy director doing it."
But it’s also about the money. He says the $35 monthly membership will actually save him money while fueling his video game past-time.
"I think the reason it’ll be less expensive, because you don’t have to buy all the systems that are out there,” Smith said. Lohry said they hope to add a PS4 soon.
At Game Lair, Smith has access to an Xbox and Playstation, consoles that cost several hundred dollars a piece, as well as a wall full of used games that each average $60 new.
As for the experience at Game Lair, Smith said there is no competition. Lohry and his brother-in-law and co-owner Geof Goodman are gamers themselves and bring an expertise Smith said he never saw elsewhere.
After first seeing the Game Lair sign while driving on Hamilton Boulevard, Smith said he signed up for the membership the next day. Since then, Lohry has always recognized him by name.