- Associated Press - Sunday, June 24, 2018

HANCEVILLE, Ala. (AP) - The newest light to flicker back to life along the downtown storefront windows in Hanceville’s historic heart burns with a cool mix of the old-school and the cutting edge.

Downtown Hanceville’s newest addition is a gaming store that stays open late. It’s a place for people to spend time together, well beyond the money they spend inside. It’s a place born of a lifelong passion of brothers Clint and Nikolaos McCormick.

Outbreak Games, a store that specializes in card and board games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, Dungeons & Dragons, and Yu-Gi-Oh!, opened its doors to the delight of fans and enthusiasts in the area who’ve previously had to improvise a meeting place for their highly social pastime.

That all changes - not only for Hanceville players, but for players even from neighboring counties - with the opening of Outbreak. Clint and Nikolaos looked around, saw the potential to give gamers a vital missing piece - a local venue where they could spread out their cards and set up their boards - and then hatched a plan.

“You can’t sit up in your room and with a game controller and a headset and get the same social experience; the same interaction as you can when you get some friends together and gather around a table to play a board game or a card game,” explained Nikolaos.

“For people who don’t play video games as much, this kind of gaming is a face-to-face experience; it’s a social experience. You’ll see guys playing in pairs; three or four, gathered in groups together. This is just a medium that allows you to have a little bit more of a social environment, and we wanted to make a place in Hanceville for that, whether you live in Hanceville or somewhere else.”

While people from across all of North Alabama already have shown interest in Outbreak and what it offers, the McCormicks say they want their store, above all, to fit well into the evolving fabric of Hanceville’s community life.

“That’s one of the things about this store - that we’re all about the community,” Nikolaos said. “We’ve got the school colors - purple and gold - on display with pride, and we want this to be a place where people feel connected with each other, and connected to Hanceville.”

As the city’s downtown looks more lively with the opening of each new business in repurposed historic buildings, Hanceville’s reviving center is still rumbling back to life slowly. But stable, sustainable growth, says Mayor Kenneth Nail, is preferable to the chaotically rapid sort, which doesn’t always last.

“We’ve had so many places come on in a short time, but it’s still at a good, manageable pace,” said Nail. “A new optical place opened just a few weeks back, and now this new game room, and Nolan (Bradford, a Hanceville resident and property owner) is working on some new upstairs apartments in downtown now.

“We feel like, as that continues to evolve and grow, there’ll definitely be a lot more foot traffic in downtown - and we think that’s part of the answer in helping to revitalize. We’re not having the explosive kind of growth like the City of Cullman has had - and they’ve definitely done a wonderful job with it. But in a small town of our size, I’d rather have slower growth than to have a lot all at once - just to watch it all surge and then close back down.”

Private citizens who believe downtown Hanceville’s worth investing in are a big part of the slow-growth formula. In addition to the apartments and a new restaurant (the Bulldogs Country Cook’N restaurant is set to open on Commercial Street next week), Bradford owns the renovated building where Outbreak leases its bright, open downstairs space. It’s the “mural” building in old downtown, across the parking lot from the historic Hanceville Drug Company.

“He’s helped us out so much with the building, and given us creative control for what we want to do with the inside of this space,” Nikolaos said. “He’s about to open a restaurant just up the street, and man, that place is looking great. And us - we’re just really happy to have a place to post up in downtown Hanceville.”

Outbreak Games is open from Thursday through Monday, closing at 10 p.m. each day except for Sundays, when the store closes at 8 p.m. Follow Outbreak on Twitter at @OutbreakGamesOG for more on store hours, special events, and the McCormick’s plans as they expand their programs and inventory.

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Information from: The Cullman Times, http://www.cullmantimes.com

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