Saturday, October 17, 2020

A fond farewell to the cock-pit of King County

The Panzer Depot closed for business this week. John Kennedy had run the business for 17 years. Initially a distribution business, John was the first US distributor for the Flames of War minis and was a distributor for a few companies from the UK, he moved more towards a local retail-only operation in the final years.

In looking recently through the Cascadia Tabletop Wargamers Facebook group's photos, it dawned on me that more miniature battles have occurred on the tables in John's store over the years than anywhere else in the region. It was the (miniature) cock-pit of King County—if not the whole of Western WA. It was our own private Belgium. But while Belgium is still here, The Panzer Depot is gone.

COVID was the last nail in its coffin, although John says that the business had been struggling for the last few years. The news of the store's closing came unexpectedly in September and effected a small shockwave through the gamers in this region.

For those of us who live closer in to Seattle or Bellevue, The Panzer Depot was more than a store or even a venue for miniature gaming, it was a community, a hub around which friendships were formed.

Miniature gaming will continue—assuming we're not locked down forever—but we'll go old school. Most of us started miniature gaming in garages and private homes; we're returning to that now. I expect, however, some fragmentation. At The Panzer Depot you could stop by to buy something or just check in to see what was going on and meet a host of characters with whom you might connect.

We've been spoiled in this region for decades with several commercial venues to play. American Eagles hobby shop in Seattle (various locations) was a locus for miniature gaming since the 80s, but gaming there declined sharply after their last move because no one really liked the new gamespace. In any case, American Eagles shut down in 2011. The Game Matrix in Tacoma is still available as a place to game, although it's always felt iffy about planning a game there. Pokemon tournaments—replete with noisy children—could appear unexpectedly and your game would get bumped, if you were lucky; otherwise, you might be relegated to a small table in the back of the room where you'd be overwhelmed with the din. When I first came to Washington, 30 years ago, there were a few gamers who met in the attic of Plastics and Tactics, a moribund hobby store in Tacoma. That's where I first met people who have remained lifelong friends, though some are now gone.

The Panzer Depot was a lovely, cluttered hole in the wall filled with fascinating things, so I was startled to see the pictures John posted of the empty store.

I made one last trip this morning to see the old place where happy memories dwell and peek in the windows at the bare walls. The empty shell reminded of the words of Psalm 103:16,

For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

And its place knows it no more.