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Friday Night Magic in Montpelier: This Book Store isn’t Just For Reading Any More!

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by Carla Occaso

Oscar Young, 9; Emery Brush, 15, and Kirby Occaso, 15, play Friday Night Magic at The Book Garden in Montpelier. Photo by Carla Occaso.
Oscar Young, 9; Emery Brush, 15, and Kirby Occaso, 15, play Friday Night Magic at The Book Garden in Montpelier. Photo by Carla Occaso.

It is 10 p.m. on Friday. Do you know where your teenager is? Or nine-year-old? Or 40-year-old? It could be they are joining the group at one of the local bookstores playing an interesting and imaginative card game. Below is an interview between The Bridge’s Carla Occaso and Rick Powell, owner of The Book Garden located at 50 State St.,  Powell has a vibrant book and art collection, but the real and growing attraction for some residents is the weekend card game and tournaments called Friday Night Magic.

The Bridge:  How long have you been hosting Friday Night Magic games at The Book Garden?

Rick Powell: About four years now.

The Bridge: How would you describe the game?

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Rick Powell: It’s a strategic collectible card based game played one on one. It’s very social with no video involved. The kids playing have a rich social experience and are very deeply involved. it is a complicated game with a lot of variables. The best players tend to be the brightest kids, as strategy is more important than luck in this game.

The Bridge: How did you learn about it?

Rick Powell: One of the parents of the kids who plays told me about it. He said he thought it would be great for the shop, and he and his wife wanted to be able to go out to the movies on Friday night. It’s been great, and I have gotten a lot of feedback from parents who appreciate my giving the kids something fun and safe to do on Friday night.

The Bridge: How would you describe the participants?

Rick Powell: It’s mostly boys from 10 to 20 who play at my shop. But, there are plenty of older players and girls who play worldwide. The game appeals to all ages, and we have some adults who play including some father/son players, and a mother and son who come out regularly.

The Bridge: How many people participate each week?

Rick Powell: We have about 15-30 players on a given night. It slows a bit in the summer sometimes when people are on vacation.

The Bridge: Has it been growing or shrinking in popularity?

Rick Powell: It is definitely growing in popularity as more people find out we are hosting games here, and as we have become sanctioned with Wizards of the Coast, the game company, at the advanced level; which means we can host pre-release events now.

The Bridge: When do game times typically start and stop and how long does each game last?

Rick Powell: We start Friday Night Magic at 7 p.m., and it usually goes until about 10 p.m. Later, if there are a lot of players. the game is played in best two out of three matches that take about 45 minutes to play on average.

The Bridge: What other activities do you run out of The Book Garden?

Rick Powell: We also have Sunday evening Magic the Gathering events starting at 5, that rotate. Including league events that go for six weeks.

The Bridge: What is the most popular activity of your customers that you know of? 

Rick Powell: The games and graphic novels are the biggest part of what my store is about. And, those customers do a lot of gaming and reading as well. I also specialize in art and illustrated books which brings in a lot of artists. And thirdly, I’d say, gardening and agriculture related books that draw the gardeners and small farmers. Often, all of these interests are represented in the same customers.

The Bridge: How is book sales? What books or book types are popular?

Rick Powell: New books sales are very good as are agriculture-related books, and graphic novels. Used books sales are declining.

The Bridge: How long has The Book Garden been in Montpelier?

Rick Powell: The Book Garden opened in July, 2005. We are in our 10th year.