The location is great. It's convenient because it is right beside the mall, in the main shopping area of Hickory. The only bad part about the location is that the address isn't completely in sync with Google Maps... type in the store's address and you'll find yourself in the next shopping center over. For reference, I've embedded the street view from Google Maps below. The Dugout doesn't even show up in the picture yet, as Google probably hasn't sent one of their vans through the area since the store opened, but this is the correct place nonetheless:
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When I first walked in, my first impression was that the place was clean and a little bare. But don't mistake "bare" for a negative thing. There is a good reason the place looks bare: there's room to actually play. Of the other two gaming stores in the area, one is about half the size of this place and the other is slightly bigger but only sets aside a small area for gaming. The Dugout has a large playing area with tables, and that's definitely a plus.
While I was browsing, I chatted with Tim a little about the store and told him that I wanted to write a review. He asked me not to link to their website yet, as it is undergoing heavy revision, but I did poke around a little on the site anyway. What struck out to me more than anything was this statement:
Ok, here is something you won't hear very often. "The majority of hobby shops in the country offer the very same products we do!" It feels a little odd to make such a statement! So what will make us different? Our goal, simply stated, is to make this your store, and put you, the collector, first. Look, we are collectors and gamers just like you, and we acknowledge that the good things that happen in a card shop, occur on your side of the counter. Your ideas and input truly matter to us, and together we will build a great shop.I can tell just by this statement that this place is one with which I can identify. They have the right attitude, and I can tell that I'll be spending a good deal of time there in the near future. In fact, if I didn't already have plans to go out of town this weekend, I'd be there for the New Phyrexia Prerelease this weekend. In any case, I'm sure I'll be joining them for Sunday afternoon Magic on a regular basis.
The Dugout sells cards, but based on what I've seen of the store so far, it looks like what The Dugout really has going for it is the experience. When I first walked in, the place was almost empty. By the time I left, there were a half dozen or more customers cracking open packs of sports cards and discussing the NBA Playoffs, while another guy was sorting through a huge collection of Yu-Gi-Oh cards. The owner, Tim, was friendly and if he didn't know everybody, you certainly got the impression that he wanted to. It's a really positive atmosphere.
If you're in the Hickory area, I would encourage you to give this place a visit.