Anytime I read about people that go into chess business - it really inspires me. I came across this article that I want to share with you. Although, I have not been to New Jersey since 1997, I want to put my grain of salt in the success of this business venture.
Stephen Dick's decision to open a store in Pitman was calculated like a chess move.
All the King's Men, a store that specializes in chess products and board games, began five years ago as an online store. The Web business, that Dick said earned $40,000 to $50,000 a year in profits, yielded enough revenue to open the brick and morter shop on Broadway, that opened in 2007.
"Most people do it the other way around," Dick said, noting that many companies start as physical shops, and later develop a Web presence. "I thought this was better because most people would open a store then a Web site. So I had a steady income built in. In this economy, it has certainly helped to keep me afloat."
Chess boards and pieces in Dick's store range from $6 basic plastic sets to $60 weighted plastic sets. He also sells themed and heirloom sets that can cost hundreds of dollars, as well as an assortment of board games that might not be found on the shelf in Wal-Mart or Target.
The store, he said, has evolved into a 'center,' where patrons can purchase items, while they learn chess, test games during game nights, or congregate with other All the King's Men Chess Club members.
"We have a fairly good selection of card games that are family oriented, and really off the wall stuff that people who are into games know," he said. "If most people haven't seen it on TV or seen it on the shelf at Wal-Mart, they don't know it. So I hold game night to introduce people to these things."
Although he can explain how to play every game in the store - from German and Ancient strategy games to Scrabble-like word puzzles - he described himself as more of an outdoorsman than someone who enjoyed sitting face-to-face with opponents around a table. However, his first chess set - where he learned to play the game - is kept in the store.
"There was no real profound reason why I picked chess," he said. "I came across chess and it didn't leap right out at me."
But online research and how-to books pointed him straight toward what he said is "certainly a niche market."
"I read through all the gurus' books and it basically got pretty simple. The formula was, 'Don't sell products that people can get at Wal-Mart or Best Buy,'" he said. "Don't sell those products because you won't be able to compete."
The Web site started with a very narrow focus, and offered only the themed and heirloom chess sets that were not found in stores in the Philadelphia-South Jersey region, he said. Now, All the King's men sees patrons from Pennsylvania, South and Central New Jersey.
"It's a nice combination of a chess store and people who like to play the game," said Steve Leverich, of Ridley Park, Pa., an All the King's Men chess club member. "You don't find many chess stores run like Steve's."
Leverich regularly makes the 25-mile trip from Pennsylvania to Pitman to challenge other club members to Tuesday afternoon games. This week, he played Pitman resident Ira Fine.
"(The store) is within walking distance," Fine said. "Kills two birds with one stone - I come here and get my exercise, then I exercise my mind ... It's kind of unique. You don't see too many places that combine what he's done here."
All the King's Men
62 S. Broadway, Pitman
Registered All the King's Men Chess Club members can challenge eat other to chess matches from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursdays, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Test new board games or bring one from home from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. every first and third Wednesday. Must be at least 21 years old. Permitted to bring your own bottle to the event. A $5 cover charge includes admission, food and non-alcoholic beverage.
All the King's Men also offers a Chess Academy an Chess Camp for adults and children. Call the store for more information.
All the King's Men owner Stephen Dick has organized the 2nd Annual Greater Pitman Open Chess Championship at Pitman Manor on Aug. 15. The tournament will draw high-ranking chess players from across the country including Alex Lenderman who is ranked 13 in the nation in the U.S. Chess Federation and number-one in the federation's under-21 group. Lenderman will also conduct a simultaneous exhibition at All the King's Men chess shop at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14.