From the outside, Steadfast Hobbies & Games looks like a business, but on the inside, it's a home.
The local game store does in fact sell everything a tabletop gamer and hobby enthusiast needs, but it's the sense of belonging that makes Steadfast special.
Owner Nick Palmer highlighted how being together all the time is part of what makes the gaming community at Steadfast, and in general, special.
"COVID happened, shut everything down for the better part of three years," Palmer said. "A lot of the part that was missed out of Magic: The Gathering in particular was the gathering aspect. You weren't with your friends. You weren't traveling to events. You didn't get to play. Same thing with D&D -- it's really that camaraderie that you form with the group. Some of these games can go over a year."
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Palmer said he sees several regular customers at the store even on a slow day. Regulars go to Steadfast just to stop by after work to talk about their week or to make conversation about how things are going at the shop.
"I try to be as friendly as possible," Palmer said. "I'm a little grumpy. I'm a little old. I'm a little coarse. It goes along with trying to create that atmosphere. When you come in the door, you don't come in somewhere to see somebody angry or mad behind the counter. ... I do care about my patrons that come into the store. Some are closer than others that I know more on a personal level. Still, I do care about how their well-being is going."
Throughout the years, Steadfast helped patrons make it through tough times. Players can go to the shop and sit down at one of the many long, white tables and play their favorite games with their friends.
"I know from personal experience I know it helps to have that, even when times are really bad, you have that thing you can go to," Palmer said. "Regardless of the fun that we have in the store, good days, bad days, I do have customers that have reached out and gone, 'I'm going through this very difficult stretch. I'm glad the shop was there where I could meet people.'"
Palmer noted he is older than many people in the nerd community in Hot Springs, but that's not a bad thing.
"They're enthusiastic about their hobbies, their likes, what they love to do," he said. "It could go anywhere from gaming, movies, cosplay. It doesn't matter what. In the last few years, just in the time I've been doing this, just to see the younger generation really step up. It's become mainstream as it has now. It's very exciting to see that younger generation in Hot Springs grow and be so open about it. I love the growth."
Palmer said the community at Steadfast is special because it does not matter who a person is, the shop and people in the store will always be welcoming.
Customers, tabletop gamers, hobby enthusiasts and all sorts of people in the nerd community travel to Steadfast to find joy in the things they love.
"'I was able to find myself, be able to ground myself with having the shop there,'" Palmer said a customer told him. "It means a lot that people view this place as such, you know again, home. We want it to be welcoming."