- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Posters of superheroes and villains watch over customers perusing an eclectic mix of comic books, collectibles and obscure tabletop board games.

Behind a bookshelf filled with handmade dioramas used in league matches of Warhammer - a figurine-based role-playing game - sits a folding table displaying works from local artists, including crocheted Pokemon hats and hand-drawn “tokens” used in card games. A cardboard Star Wars battle droid stands guard.

Comic World and Games, 2300 Kennedy Road, certainly presents an atypical office environment. But for new owners Steven Stierman and Jordyn Took, the nearly 40-year-old shop is more than their livelihood - it’s a community.

“It’s really our life,” Took told the Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/1JdRTtk). “We spend every weekend or every night playing board games or playing Pokemon or Magic or reading comics. It was kind of natural to want to (own the shop).”

Stierman, 24, and Took, 19, were longtime customers of Comic World and had been considering opening a shop for several months. The duo hoped to debut plans for the new venture at the inaugural DBQ Con in September, but were presented with an unexpected opportunity.

Comic World’s previous owner, Josh Staudenraous, offered to sell the business and its assets, which allowed Stierman and Took access to an established name and customer base.

Comics remain a focus of the business. Stierman and Took stock popular and current books and can special order just about anything.

But the couple, engaged to be married, also is passionate about continuing the shop’s history as a venue for “nerd and geek” activities.

Friday evenings are devoted to tournaments of Magic: The Gathering - a fantasy-themed card-based role-playing game. Board game nights and Dungeons and Dragons matches are commonplace.

“We’ve been really focusing on creating a place for the nerd and geek communities to be able to come out, hang out and meet new people,” Stierman said.

The shop frequently will stay open past its scheduled 9 p.m. closing time to accommodate games and activities that run a little long. Such events are dear to Stierman, who recalled attending his first Friday Night Magic event against his will.

Despite his trepidation, “I thought it was great,” he said. “I have tons of friends I’ve met through that now and traveling to other tournaments. … There’s something really great about having that nerdy or geeky thing you really love doing and finding other people who are completely unashamed about it.”

Luke Potter has been playing Magic: The Gathering and board games at Comic World for about a decade. The new owners - who he knew from their days as game players - brought with them a renewed energy, Potter said.

“It’s great to have an infusion of fresh blood and people who care about what they’re doing,” he said.

Paige Neebel plays tabletop games at Comic World every Tuesday. She said she appreciates the expanded selection of board games offered by Stierman and Took.

“I think they’re going to do pretty well,” she said “I think the business will flourish (because) they’re very open about letting us come and use the space here. … We can expand our group and they have special places for gaming for other groups. I think that’s going to be a benefit for the community.”

The goal is to be a fun, comfortable place for people, regardless of where their passions lie, Took said.

“You’re able to find somebody who’s just as passionate about it,” she said. “Nobody really judges anybody or makes fun of anybody. … This is honestly more like a community than a store. That’s what we like about it.”

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