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Inspiring Conversations with Suzanne Hug of Athoria Games

Today we’d like to introduce you to Suzanne Hug. Them and their team share their story with us below:

The story of Athoria Games is a love story. In the fall of 2016, Suzanne and Patrick Hug were working long hours to make ends meet.

Suzanne worked full time as an insurance executive and Patrick stayed home taking care of the house and their two young sons. He’d quit managing a game store due to burnout from working with an unreasonable owner and needed a fresh start. After tucking the kids in one night, Suzanne and Patrick lit a few candles on the dining room table, sat down with a bottle of chianti, and a thick slice of cheesecake, and started to talk about the future.

This night of wine, laughter, and dreams led to the idea of starting their own business. Both were lifelong gamers, and loved the idea of a local game store, but wanted one they would feel comfortable letting their kids play at and inviting their friends too. They also missed each other and wanted to spend more time as a couple and as a family. The dream of a family business made sense but was a big and daunting undertaking. That at-home date night turned into more conversations, and the plan for Athoria Games was formed.

Patrick was knowledgeable in the gaming industry, and Suzanne understood the management and finance aspects of the business. In a few months, a viable business plan was established and the hunt for a location began. On April 1st, 2017 Athoria Games officially opened its doors.

This year, Athoria celebrated their 5-year anniversary and Suzanne and Patrick celebrated 17 years of marriage. The business thrived and their sons, now 13 and 11, help on the weekends and during summer break. They have full-time staff allowing the family to spend many happy hours playing and working together. Running a business still requires a lot of work, but they approach it with joy and enthusiasm.

Suzanne teaches Pokémon to kids and Patrick helps customers build Magic the Gathering decks. They both enjoy learning new board games and finding new ways to delight the friendly gaming communities that shop and play at Athoria Games.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Building a small business from scratch is not an easy road. Athoria Games was planning their 3rd Anniversary party when news of the first COVID-19 lockdowns hit. For the first time since opening its doors, Athoria Games made no sales for an entire week. It was a plight shared by many but was scary in discouraging. It felt like a huge setback and a total change from thriving, to now figuring out survival.

Once again, Suzanne and Patrick turned to each other. This time they chose a day-long road trip to Las Vegas. It was a favorite vacation destination, and reports of the famous Strip being dark, was something out of a post-apocalyptic video game. It was worth the drive to see in person, and they needed time to talk about the future.

As Patrick drove through the Joshua Tree forest, Suzanne pulled out her laptop and started writing. They could not wait on the government to save them and their business. They pulled up that first business plan and began to rework it, step by step. By the time they returned home that evening, Athoria Games was ready to pivot for the new economy.

The next day they called back staff and got to work reorganizing the store. They began offering curbside pick-up and implemented a strict mask mandate. Working with the city of Mesa, they brought in sanitizing stations and lots of cleaning products. It was going to be tough, but now more than ever people needed home entertainment and their small size meant quick adaptation and communication was possible.

Athoria Games even sold their back stock of toilet paper to customers in need since the store was closed for in-store shopping. It was a matter of helping the community that had supported them for the past few years.

We’ve been impressed with Athoria Games, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The founding principle for Athoria Games is Respect.

During the initial planning, it was important to have a strong vision for the type of vibe and community we would represent and attract. Both Suzanne and Patrick worked for corporate companies in the past and didn’t want that for themselves or their staff. Athoria Games is proud to offer set schedules, so our staff can plan their lives out and a 401k plan to help secure their future.

We also believe that gaming is for everyone and that welcoming new players is just as important as greeting our regulars by name. We use gender-neutral greetings and take the time to listen to the questions and interests of our customers. We believe treating people with respect and seeking to build long-term relationships is the key not only to success but to maintaining a fun environment.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
My advice for anyone considering a small business is to make sure you have a strong sense of who you are and what you want to represent. It’s important to have that vision and to write it down before taking the next steps.

If you don’t it’s easy to get distracted and lose your identity along the way. Building a business is hard, and that brand identity is necessary to guide you and pull you through the times that you question yourself and your choices.

Starting out, I wish I knew where to focus my energies. I definitely put time into small details that didn’t end up mattering and overlooked other issues that ended up taking multiple revisions. My advice is to listen closely to your customers and staff.

They often have the solutions you’re looking for, but you have to ask and then be open to change.

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