Jameson Reeves is a guy who defies expectations. Dressed in a ball cap, blue logo t-shirt, well-worn jeans, and sporting a trim beard and two full sleeves of tattoos, the 35-year old entrepreneur is full of surprises. He looks more the part of a musician (which he was) than banker (which he also was). The one thing he definitely doesn’t look like is a gamer.
Reeves is the owner of Full Grip Games. Located on East Market Street, Full Grip Games is a gaming room and retail outlet, as well as the hub of the online component of Reeves’ business.
The bulk of the enterprise focuses on Magic: The Gathering, a fantasy-based trading card game that was created in 1993. Players build decks of cards and then compete in battles against one another. Full Grip Games not only sells the cards but provides players a fun, comfortable location to play and interact.
Originally from Ellet, Reeves discovered Magic in middle school. He and his friends would spend hours around the kitchen table playing. He loved the strategy and collectability aspects of the game—and the escape it provided him.
“I didn’t have to worry about anything,” Reeves says. “I forgot about school and parents and just had a good time. It was a break from reality.”
As Reeves grew older and moved on to high school, his interest in the game waned.
“I discovered girls,” he grins.
Sometime after high school, he rediscovered Magic. This time it sucked him in on a whole new level. He dedicated himself to the game with a new ferocity.
So much so, that when he moved to Chicago he opened a gaming shop there with a partner. Despite the business doing well, he and his collaborator decided to part ways after a couple years. Regardless, Reeves wanted to stay in the gaming business. Though he knew he could be successful in Chicago, he eyed Akron as a market that was ripe for what he had in mind.
“I actually found this space before I even moved back,” Reeves recalls. “The location and parking were perfect.”
Reeves wanted to give the retail element of the business time to establish. In April of 2016, he began selling Magic cards online from his home so he could generate the cash flow to enable him to stock and dress the retail space. It also gave him time to assemble a team of employees to be in place by the time the physical shop was ready to launch.
After securing tables, chairs, racks, display cases and coolers to furnish the space, the only thing left for Reeves to do was name the endeavor.
“I brainstormed a handful of names before settling on ‘Full Grip,’” says Reeves.
He went on to explain that, in terms of Magic, a “full grip” is a well-stocked hand that gives the player an advantage over their opponent.
By November, the shop was up and ready for business. He gave Full Grip Games a “soft open” (one with little fanfare). The company immediately began to build steam.
He revealed that the biggest pressure going into the launch were the expectations he placed upon himself.
“I don’t feel that I ever do enough,” Reeves laughs. “But in reality, we are doing great. We’re growing.”
And the best part of owning one’s own business?
“Seeing your dreams come to light, working with friends and teaching,” says Reeves. “I’m proud of this space. I couldn’t have done it without my parents, girlfriend and staff. The biggest surprise is that it turned out exactly as I hoped.”
So is there a typical gamer?
“Akron has a tight-knit gaming community,” says Reeves, “but it’s diverse. College students, working class people and men and women of all ages come in to play. There’s a camaraderie to it.”
Reeves has opened the shop to more than just Magic play. He and his crew are looking to add Pokemon to their regular schedule. They also offer space for customers to play board games, dice games and various other role playing games, as well.
“Nerd” culture has exploded in the last decade. Superhero films, cosplay and comic books have invaded the mainstream. How does gaming fit into overall scheme of things?
“Gaming is the mortar of nerd culture,” explains Reeves. “Bricks don’t touch each other, mortar does. Gaming touches and connects every part of the culture. There are gaming (counterparts) to movies, video games and comic books. Every part touches every other part.”
Full Grip Games is located at 121 E Market St. It is open Mon-Fri from 12-10 pm and Sat-Sun 12-8 pm. Visit FullGripGames.com for more information.