A local shop is promoting the ideas of bonding and fun, not just purchases.
The Illuminaudi, located on Alexandria Pike, is not just another gaming store where fans gather to make purchases and go. Owners Kris Rekers and Rob Highlander are striving to make their store more than just that.
“Honestly, we’re in the business for fun really,” Rekers said.
Rekers and Highlander, both former NKU students, realized, when they were attending college, that there wasn’t a whole lot to do in Highland Heights, especially for their target group of gamers. So on November 23, 2012, Black Friday, they opened their shop.
“It’s a great community that we’ve become a part of,” Rekers said. “Everyone’s been very welcoming.”
The Illuminaudi sells gaming products and offers play space for gaming of all sorts. Magic: The Gathering “is more popular than ever” Highlander said, but it’s not the only game they have. They hold Yu-Gi-Oh! and Heroclix tournaments, and every Wednesday is board game night, where people are welcome to play any board game they want.
As a bonus, many of the “nearly constant” events are free, except for large tournaments which require a buy-in and always have a large prize for the winners, Rekers explained.
“It’s a great place to hang out, and there’s not really a lot, or anything like it around here,” said Cary Cornelius, art major and frequent Illuminaudi patron.
The play space is “unmatched in the area,” Rekers said, and people can come in groups of any number and are almost always guaranteed a table space to play whatever game they choose to bring in. Cornelius said he brings in a lot of his friends and “it’s a great store where we can go and play cards.”
Allowing people to play what they want, when they want at any time, and with whomever wants to play is one of Reker and Highlander’s favorite aspects of owning the store.
“As soon as they [a customer] walk in the door, you know they have a common interest, which is really cool to know,” Highlander said.
That aspect of common interest is what the duo credits their success to, and those shared interests can build a community and strong friendships between the game players.
“It’s nice to be a part of a community,” Rekers said. “I used to be an artist and now instead of creating art, [I’m] creating a community spot.”
At The Illuminaudi, people don’t just play games, they make friends. Both Highlander and Rekers said they wouldn’t know some of their closest friends had they not opened the store. Many of the now “regular groups” who come into the store so frequently, started out as small groups of friends who came together and formed larger, bonded groups.
This is the store’s first full fall semester in the area and they’ve seen a growth in the number of NKU students coming into the shop to play. While the store gets around 400 patrons in a week, Highlander said roughly 20-30 percent of their game players are NKU students.
“A few years ago when the online versions of Magic and other games came out, people said it would be the death of the paper versions. But you can’t get rid of human interaction, if nothing else you can’t brag successfully online can you?” Highlander said.
The human interaction of the games keeps the shop going and the owners are always glad to have as many people as possible in the shop when they can. Having people in the store is something they love and “keeps us from killing each other,” Highlander joked.
Soon The Illuminaudi will be changing its name to Two Headed Games, which is the title of the original online shop, but the owners guarantee the atmosphere will remain the same. They also hope to continue live-streaming some games directly online, and are always open to adding new events if enough people request it.
For more information, stop in The Illuminaudi which is located behind E-Jays Hair Salon on Alexandria Pike or check out the website theilluminaudi.com/nky/ or