Meet Walter Sheppard: Pullman Resident, Washington State University (WSU) Graduate, Small Business Owner, Movie Buff, and Jack-of-All-Games
An interview by Andreas Gross
Photography by Frida Gross
Date of Interview: 5/28/2020
Hi Walter, I’m so glad to have you with us today for this interview for the Second Edition of The Pullmanic – Promoting Pullman!, the semi-annual newsletter associated with The City of Pullman Portal. And, of course, this interview will also be published in the Meet The Entrepreneurs section of the website Biz Opp Empire – promoting ideas, inspiration, and opportunity within the realm of small business, freelance, and entrepreneurship! Both websites were established by and are currently operated by Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises.
It’s small hometown businesses like yours that make Pullman thrive, and it’s precisely these kinds of businesses that I aim to feature and promote through the publication of The Pullmanic and The City of Pullman Portal website. I don’t remember Palouse Games being around when I was in Pullman as a kid or during my Undergrad years, but by the time I was in Graduate School (circa 2010), I remember seeing your shop appear; but let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Tell us a little bit about yourself first, Walter. You know, who you are, where you’re coming from. Give us the details about you and your background!
Very good to be with you today indeed, Andreas. And 2010 was the year that Palouse Games first opened its doors, which is why you never noticed us before that; but more on that later.
Let’s see, some background about myself…I’m originally from the East Coast, but moved to Pullman in the 3rd Grade with my family. As the awkward new kid with glasses and a bowl haircut, I was of course instantly popular at my new school. Despite this rosy reception, I spent my afternoons and evenings delving into various fantasy worlds, through books, movies, and games. Being the hero of your own story appeals to everyone, young and old alike. My own spark for tabletop gaming began at a beloved Pullman institution: Wally's World of Hobbies. Passing through the doors there, I was transported to a place where the only limit was my imagination (and my allowance money). Wally's World is where I made friends, spent birthdays, and nurtured my creative instincts.
It's been some years since I was that new kid with the bowl hair cut (thankfully I'm going bald) but my passion for games and the positive community they provide has only grown over the years. When I grew up, Wally's World closed; so, when the opportunity came to purchase Palouse Games from my friend who owned it at the time, I knew I had to go for it. My goal is to make Palouse Games the kind of place I'd want to spend my summertime afternoons – playing games, talking with friends, or just battling dragons.
Awesome, Walter! The “new kid on the block” from the East Coast with the bowl haircut – nice! Well I must say indeed, you certainly have carved yourself out a nice little slice of Heaven in Paradise with Palouse Games here in Pullman! Let’s talk about that now. Tell us about Palouse Games – how you started, when (well, I guess you already mentioned these first two things), who your audience is, how your business is structured… tell us everything!
Palouse Games was actually started by a friend of mine named Billy Autrey, in 2010. He ran the business for three or so years before following his own dreams (and selling the business to me) – he's now a high school teacher. His main goal for the shop was community, and that is something I've tried my best to maintain. It's important to have a place like this in the area where people can go to relax, socialize, and unplug for a while with some good games.
We are welcoming to anyone and everyone of all ages, but most of our customers tend to be middle school to college aged individuals.
Since Palouse Games is a really small shop, I just don't have the need for any employees. I run the business as a sole proprietorship. Keeping the business as a sole proprietorship keeps everything simple and easy enough that I can handle all the paperwork myself, without the need for an accountant.
We never pressure you to buy anything you don't need and only ask that you respect our space and each other. Our tables are free to use and we host a variety of weekly events that keep them occupied with something to do almost every night. We have a community driven board game shelf that has a variety of titles for people to sit down and play with, as well as open games of Pathfinder and other RPGs that people can hop into and enjoy. For the MTG crowd, we host a smattering of events, both casual and competitive, that include standard, draft, modern, prerelease and, of course, commander.
We're always happy to answer any and all questions customers have; and if there's something you'd like us to order special, we can do that, too. Basically, we hope that Palouse Games becomes your go-to locally owned gaming store and look forward to providing the kind of atmosphere and service that makes that happen.
You heard that, Pullman! Don’t be shy to head on into Palouse Games, take a load off, and just chill out for a bit and enjoy some games! Palouse Games is your one-stop community game spot!
Now, Walter, is there anything you can tell us specifically about setting up a business in Pullman, Washington? This question is for our entrepreneur readers.
Pullman is a great town to live in, and I hope it'll be a great spot for your own local business here someday. A lot of what I learned about running my business are things I figured out after messing up, so don't be afraid to fail. You learn more from failure than you do from success.
To get started, I'd advise getting a feel for the town and starting a business that fills a new niche. For example, probably not a coffee shop downtown, as we have several great ones already.
Get a business plan, figure out your costs and how many months it'll take to make that money back. After you crunch those numbers and do the calculations, is it still worth the set-up and ongoing maintenance costs? Are you going to be financially OK if your business fails?
Ultimately, make sure your business is something you're passionate about. Yes, I know you hear every “guru” say that, but they say that because it really is true! You're going to have bad days, bad weeks, bad months. You're going to lose money; you're going to struggle. If it's something you love, it's easier to put in those long hours to make it work. Good luck, I look forward to giving you my business in the future!
Any closing remarks you’d like to share with us about running Palouse Games and life as a Pullman small business owner?
If these last weeks of quarantine have taught us anything, it's that the more time you have to relax and unwind, the more unwound you get. I'm elated to be back at work (even just part time) and have something to do. There are always going to be days or times that you don't want to go to work in general, but I think if you enjoy what you do overall, the good days will outnumber the bad. I love Palouse Games and the local community that supports it.
Walter, thank you very much for taking the time to share with us about Palouse Games today. Before we completely wrap things up here, though, let’s talk a little bit more about that last sentence you just mentioned: “I love Palouse Games and the local community that supports it.” You’ve lived a considerable chunk of your life in Pullman, Washington; tell us what you like about it – Pullman, Washington, the place itself:
Pullman has been my home for over 20 years now. I love the people, the small business landmarks and local names, and our yearly traditions. We have the Lentil Festival. Anyone not from Pullman will have to google that right now. We have passionate sports teams and sports fans (insert obligatory “Go Cougs!” here), and thousands of new people visiting and living here each year thanks to WSU. This keeps our town small but constantly growing and diverse; I can't wait to see what our town will look like in ten years.
Awesome! Wonderful! Again, thank you very much for your time today, Walter; I am sure everyone now knows where to go in Pullman, Washington, to get their game fix on! Finally, before signing off here, how can people interested in learning more about you and Palouse Games contact you?
You can find us on Facebook, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach us by phone during business hours at +1-(509)-339-6408. Of course, you can also always walk into the store itself on North Grand Avenue during business hours and see what’s going on. At the immediate moment*, because of COVID-19, we are currently only open Wednesday through Saturday on reduced hours and have no scheduled events – but we are still open!
International K-12 Educator,