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Building Community through Pokémon

Brian Myers does more than own and operate Tabletop Village; he’s building a community within a community. He jokes that the Chinatown-International District shop is more like a community center supported by retail sales.

“Having a community is different than trying to sell cards,” said Myers. “You can buy cards at Target, Walmart, or anywhere else. Nobody at those stores knows anything about them. All of us play the game, so we know what we’re talking about. We’re a community.” 

Brian Myers holds up Pokémon cards.

Myers and his family run the training gym and collectibles shop. It’s an oasis for Pokémon lovers. There are cases filled with cards, tables waiting for players to battle each other, and shelves of Pokémon goodies for purchase.

The Myers’ family journey to opening Tabletop Village started nearly a decade ago when Myers’ then five-year-old son, Polaris, started bringing Pokémon cards home. That led to learning how to play, checking out local Pokémon leagues, and meeting other players.

Myers noticed there weren’t any dedicated solely to Pokémon and the idea started forming. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Myers family made the idea a reality. They turned the taekwondo studio Myers managed into Tabletop Village.

“It was pretty great because what players really needed was a place to come and play the game,” he said.

While he oversees the shop’s operations, Myers’ wife handles the finance and administrative duties. Polaris is now 14 and a professional Pokémon player—one of the best in the world—and has his own office. You’ll also find their five-year-old playing in the shop. Myers says having a truly family-run business adds to their community.  

“My job is to build relationships more than anything and grow a community,” said Myers. “Part of that is having my family here because we’re a family-oriented community.”

Myers plays Pokémon with a group in the store.

Their customer base starts with kids just getting into collecting and goes all the way up to professional players. There’s also programming for kids and their families.

“We focus on getting them here not just because it’s our demographic, but because that’s how you continue to grow a community. You work with young people, then they continue to come here. When they get older, they’ll want other young people to come here,” said Myers.

“That’s why it’s called Tabletop Village,” he added. “It takes a village.”

Myers grew up in Hawaii and moved to Washington when he was 13 years old. He remembers taking the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle with his friends and how they’d always hang out at Uwajimaya. His love of the Chinatown-International District grew as he continued to spend time in the neighborhood, from late nights in college to working in the area. He says the neighborhood is where they want to be.

“This neighborhood feels homey,” said Myers. “It also felt good to be somewhere where Pokémon, a part of Japanese culture, belongs. It fits [here].”

That sense of community helped Myers through tough times as well. About a year and a half ago, someone smashed through the window, grabbing cards, and trying to break down the door. Myers says he was able to deter the burglars by telling them through the security cameras that police were on their way, but he was left with a broken window and a damaged door. He knew it would be expensive to fix. 

Pokémon cards on display in a case.

A friend told Myers about our Storefront Repair Fund. Business owners can apply for $2,000 grants to repair damage to their storefronts. By using this fund, Myers was able to make the necessary repairs. Through our partnership with the Chinatown-International District Small Business Relief Team, Myers also added security film on the windows as well as bars to protect the store from future damage.

“It was emotional relief as well as financial relief. I don’t have to worry about the store getting broken into. It feels like we can stay here because we have the support,” said Myers.

Staying in the Chinatown-International District and building community is what Myers plans to do. The property owner has plans to build condominiums with retail space. Myers says they offered the shop a space if they’d like to come back, but he hasn’t decided yet whether they’ll stay on this block or find a new location within the Chinatown-International District.

He does know Tabletop Village will grow. He has plans to open more shops and continue to build community.

“We found out what we’re doing is needed,” he said. “There are other communities that would benefit, so we’ll be expanding soon.”

Our office is dedicated to serving Seattle’s small businesses. These businesses not only drive our economy but are a key element of what makes our neighborhoods unique. By building community in its neighborhood, Tabletop Village is creating a unique Downtown retail experience.

Funds are still available for the Storefront Repair Fund. Business owners can apply for $2,000 grants to help cover costs to repair current property damage or reimburse business owners for costs paid out of pocket for past damage. Eligible storefront property damage includes broken doors, locks, and windows that occurred on or after March 1, 2020. Interested businesses can review full eligibility criteria and apply here.