Inside Big Kids at Play, the walls are baby blue and decorated by Pokémon and Marvel posters. Board games, like Settlers of Catan and Betrayal of House on the Hill, line the shelves, and white tables fill up the space.
Players begin to file into the store, clutching their Pokémon cards. They sit down at the tables and begin to take out their cards, shuffling them back and forth. The Pokémon Trading Card Game tournament is about to start.
Big Kids at Play opened July 1 at 602 S. Fourth St. in Van Buren, owner David Davis said. The store sells card games and board games and has gaming tournaments.
“It’s very much a community thing,” Davis said.
Players pay to participate in tournaments, but anytime there is not a scheduled event, people may come and play games for free.
“We definitely try to make it a point to learn everybody’s name,” Davis said.
The hours are Tuesday through Thursday 3:30-9:30 p.m., Friday 3:30-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday noon to 10 p.m. The shop is a part of the official Pokémon league and has official league tournaments.
“We’re about the playing of the games,” Davis said.
Davis said his goal is to have an event every night of the week. At the first Pokémon tournament, the store had so many people show up Davis had to buy more chairs.
People from ages 7 to 45 come play at the store, Davis said.
“We have kids as young as 7 come and play with 25-year-old adults,” said Mariah Peck, who has been coming to play since the store opened and helped Davis set up the store.
Peck said she likes Pokémon because the game connects different age groups.
“Plus, the cards are adorable,” Peck said.
Peck enjoys going to Big Kids at Play because there is not a pressure to buy games, she said.
“If the people in here aren’t having fun, it doesn’t matter how much money I make,” Davis said. “It’ll just be another job.”
Davis, 40, moved to the area from Dallas in 2015. When he moved here, he said he noticed that there were limited places for people to buy and play board and card games.
“I came here,” Davis said. “I saw the gap. I saw something that needed to be filled.”
In bigger metropolitan areas, the competition for game shops is very stiff, Davis said. Here, he had the opportunity to fill a market.
The store uses its Facebook page to spread the word about upcoming events like the July 27 Thursday Night Pokémon! and the July 28 Friday Night Fights.
Fredi Diaz has been coming to Big Kids at Play since its opening and has been involved with the Pokémon community since October.
“It’s a nice place to come and play,” Diaz said.
Diaz and his friend Dennis Sayavong met Davis at a Pokémon league tournament.
“I wanted to give the Pokémon community somewhere to play,” Davis said.