Since he was a child, Daniel Meeks was positive he’d one day own a game store. In fact, that’s what he told his parents the first time he stepped into one when he was only seven years old. ‘Don’t worry,’ they told him, ‘you’ll have plenty of time to find something better.’ But Meeks never let go of the dream, and gaming continued to be important to him as he grew up. “It helped me communicate, make friends, and gave me an outlet to learn and grow,” he said. Besides, there were no gaming stores around Centreville, and Meeks figured they could use one.
And so it came to pass that Central Gaming Corps (CGC) became a reality for this 20-something-year-old entrepreneur. But it happened at an inopportune time–28 days before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in widespread shutdowns. Meeks recalled, “It was definitely a blow to be told, ‘Hey, go ahead and close down’ right after starting.” Luckily, he still had some funds left from his business loan, which provided a small safety net.
The mandatory closure was difficult, but the unanticipated challenge also brought Meeks an unexpected benefit as he watched the community rallying around his store, supporting the new business. “We got phone calls every day,” he said, “asking if I had puzzles or games they could buy. I would happily take their order and drive to their homes to drop them off.”
The store is everything Meeks, now 31 years old, wanted and yet totally different from what one expects from a gaming shop. That’s because, In a refreshing twist, they don’t sell anything electronic. “When people hear game stores, they immediately think of video games. But we literally encourage people to come and get unplugged.”
To help achieve that, CGC offers an extensive selection of traditional tabletop games, all set in an inviting retail space. So, whether someone is looking for board games, card games, party games, roleplaying, or war games, they will likely find it here. “We encourage people to come in, hang out, and discover something new that they’ve never seen or played before,” Meeks said.”
In a move to lure gaming enthusiasts to his store, Meeks organizes frequent gaming events. He’s even hosted acclaimed voice actors, Steve Blum and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. During her visit, McGlynn hailed CGC as ‘the best game store on the Eastern Shore.’ The Eastern Shore probably agrees. At a 24-hour sale event, he held last year, he had almost 200 people in line. This year he anticipates doubling that number.
With globenewswire.com estimating that the “global tabletop gaming industry will reach $12 billion by the end of 2023,” it is not surprising that CGC is seeing such a positive response. The popularity of gaming bars and cafes is a phenomenon being seen worldwide. Not only do they provide a platform for connection by both adults and children, but they also offer customers the chance to discover new games.
All of this is precisely what Meeks had intended: making gaming a hobby accessible to all ages and interests. “I want to prove that anybody can game. I don’t care if you’re four years old and just learning to read or 90 years old and want something to bond over with your grandchildren or great-grandchildren. I genuinely want everyone to realize that this is something everyone can enjoy.” To ensure that commitment, he stocks a selection of games that are incredibly user-friendly. “I have games I can teach you to play in under 30 seconds, and where you’ll be a master in 60 seconds. Some of them don’t even require the ability to read,” he said.
As for customer favorites, Meeks says, “We sell a lot of trading card games such as Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering. Board game bestsellers include Catch the Moon, a stacking game appropriate for all ages, and Avalon, a strategy game he says, ‘is as complicated as chess, but easier to learn than checkers.” One of Meeks’ favorites is Monolyth, a puzzle game where players draft pieces to build a three-dimensional cube.
In addition to the wide selection of games, CGC is known for its commitment to the community. Beyond the store’s day-to-day operations, CGC actively engages with various local events and organizations. From sponsoring family game nights to supporting school fundraisers, Meeks is prominent in the town’s community-oriented initiatives.
There is a good reason for this wholehearted engagement: his roots on the Eastern Shore are long, dating back 14 generations. It even includes a relative who was a signer of the Charter of the Town of Chestertown. Meeks grew up, studied, spent time on the water, and worked around the area. It’s no surprise that he wants to give back to a town that has been supportive and enthusiastic about him and now his store. “Centreville is amazing, and there are so many opportunities here,” he said, crediting the town’s representatives and Carol D’Agostino, who is in charge of Centreville Main Street, for their assistance. “Carol pulled me aside when we first met and advised me how the town could help. Anytime I’ve had a crazy idea for an event, she’s been 100% behind me, guiding me.”
A regular customer of the store, Noah Farris, said: “Daniel’s success in building his business lies mostly in his drive to create a place for people to enjoy and find an outlet for their passions coupled with his desire to give back to the town in which he grew up.”
That sentiment is exactly what Meeks hopes to convey to others. Because to him, Central Gaming Corps is more than just a business; it expresses the positive impact gaming has had on his life. “Gaming literally saved my life,” he said. “It gave me a support system and taught me how to make compromises and be a better human in everything from sportsmanship to humility. It helped me analyze my decisions and lose my impulsivity.” He attributes his business acumen to the insights he accumulated from his gaming experiences. “This knowledge reinforces my belief that I’m on the right path, even in moments of self-doubt,” he said.
Despite this occasional doubt, he is a role model for others. Jackie Marie Royer, a Chemistry Account Manager who has known Meeks since they were teens, said, “On the Eastern Shore, new businesses are popping up every day, but most of the time, they’re attached to well-established groups or by people who have a lot of money. Seeing someone I grew up with, someone I know wasn’t from a wealthy family, accomplish it and thrive was inspiring. As a millennial, it always feels like our options are limited in what we can do, but Daniel was determined and just went out there and accomplished the dream!”
So, for now, Meeks is content to pay off any debt he has acquired from starting the business. After that, he’s open to exploring expansion possibilities. This could mean moving to a larger location in Centreville, opening a second store, or hiring employees to help manage the growing demands.
But even if he never expands, Meeks is already making a difference in Centreville. He provides a space for people of all ages to come together and enjoy gaming while fostering community ties. That’s quite an impact for a young entrepreneur who never gave up on his dreams.
Central Gaming Corps is located at 2478 Centreville Rd # C, Centreville, MD 21617. For hours, events, and game availability go to: https://centralgamingcorps.com/