It’s not easy to maintain a 4.0 GPA while running your own retail business. It’s even harder to do those things while trying to build a community.
Yet Hiram Faircloth, a graduate student in Troy University’s clinical mental health counseling program, is doing just that with Fanatix, Troy’s only comic book and gaming shop, which Faircloth opened last fall.
Opening a business while in graduate school is a bold decision for anyone to make, but for Faircloth, it was a decision rooted in passion.
Growing up in St. Clair Shores, Mich., Faircloth’s father, who currently works as a TROY professor, instilled in him a love of comics and games of all kinds – video games, card games, board games and tabletop games, to name a few.
For him, it was as much about the sense of community as it was the products themselves. So when he arrived in Troy to pursue his graduate studies, he was shocked to find no such community existed.
The closest comic book and gaming stores were in Montgomery, Enterprise and Dothan, making it difficult for people with the same hobbies to gather locally.
“I came down here and there wasn’t much of anything in Troy to do, from my perspective,” Faircloth said. “I grew up playing roleplaying games when I was younger in Michigan, and I didn’t have that here. There wasn’t a way to find and engage people with those interests.”
Eventually Faircloth began making trips to a comic book and gaming shop in Enterprise known as Fanatix, itself an offshoot of the original Fanatix store in Dothan.
With some urging from his dad, an idea began to form for Faircloth, one that materialized once he met Fanatix founder Philip Chalker.
“My father and I had talked about possibly opening up a gaming store eventually, and he (mentioned that) it’s a college town, so there’s got to be a lot of people here who play, and this would be a great place to put a store. I pitched the idea to Philip, he was on board, and everything kind of snowballed from there.”
While the wheels started moving in January 2016, it took Faircloth several months to identify a location, complete the necessary paperwork and realize his dream.
“I was also doing grad school for the first time, and that school work had priority over business stuff,” he said. “I was looking for a property that I thought was suitable and efficient, and I eventually found a wonderful landlord. It took a while to get city approval and find contractors in Troy to get things done.”
In September, Fanatix officially opened a Troy location on 1122 S. Brundidge St., offering the city’s first all-purpose comic book and gaming store.
“We offer a selection of comic books; trading card games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!; board games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan; tabletop roleplaying games like Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons; and miniature games like Warhammer 40k and X-Wing; and most everything in between,” Faircloth said.
But more than the contents inside the store, Faircloth views Fanatix as a community first and foremost.
During store hours, customers can go inside and set up games, have conversations and even observe others playing.
“Fanatix is a prosocial community space,” Faircloth said. “If you’re kind of nerdy and have fandom interests, that’s who we cater to, who we love to have in the store and who I love to have conversations with.”
He’s seen foot traffic steadily increase since the store’s opening, and he’s happy with the community’s growth.
“My goal with opening a shop here was creating a space for people to engage in their interests of comic books or board games or trading card games and not be judged,” Faircloth said. “I wanted to create a community, a place where you feel warm and welcome and safe. I think we’re starting to succeed at that. The people who are regulars here are very inviting to everyone who comes in. I’m just happy I can provide a space for the community and the community enjoys the space enough to give back to us in that same way.”
Of course, balancing his business, his community and his school work is still challenging.
“It is exciting but challenging,” Faircloth said. “Right now I maintain a 4.0 GPA and I plan on continuing that. It’s tough, but I really enjoy it. Working here and interacting with people every day is really rewarding, and school is also rewarding. I don’t have a lot of free time, but that’s OK.”
Fanatix is open 1-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 1-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday and noon-9 p.m. Sunday.