As the only gaming café and comic book store in Whitehorse, Titan Gaming and Collectables is a one-of-a-kind concept North of 60. Founded in 2005 by life-long comic-book lover and avid gamer Shawn Underhill, the space has become a rallying point for a thriving gaming culture in the Yukon.
In 2001 Wizard’s Emporium was the first comic-book store in Whitehorse. “Before that we would have to buy comics from Riverside (Grocery). Wizard’s became our teenage home for a long time,” Underhill said.
Underhill opened Titan after Wizard’s closed. “We needed a home for our community. A place for people to come and hang out. Looking back on it now I made most of my friends through Wizard’s Emporium; 25 years later we’re still best friends. They still drop by Titan daily. It’s good to see kids forming news friendships in this space, like we did back in the day.”
Up until recently the business was located in the basement of the Hougen’s Mall on Main Street.
In need of room to expand and craving above ground windows, Underhill relocated to 3121 3rd Avenue on the corner of Steele Street.
The new space has a brighter, less cavernous and more open feel to it than the original basement location. “The natural light really does make a difference,” Underhill said.
He hopes that the public will find the new, brighter atmosphere of the place welcoming. “Don’t be intimidated to drop by, it’s an inclusive community space.”
Expanding into the new space has meant an expansion of staff and capacity, too. The new events manager Chris Vainio devoted his time to organizing activities such as Katan and Pokemon tournaments.
As part of his business development, Underhill revamped his kitchen offerings and acquired a liquor license. “This has never caused any problem and Pokemon moms like to drink wine,” Underhill laughed.
“Our older clients sometimes like to have a beer with their meal… I’m really excited about the new menus, too… Since Mike Dibbs moved over from Bailey’s we’ve expanded our food options and it’s really brought the restaurant up to a new level. Since the move we’ve noticed better traffic flow of customers, and more people are coming here for lunch than before.”
Underhill said that his best memories come from growing community and bonding activities with fellow gamers. “This has always been a really a great place for meeting people. One time a couple got engaged at Titan.”
Building community is an important part of his business model, too. “Being in the North you have to diversify and do a lot of things. It’s a hard industry to succeed in. Online shopping through Amazon is killing retail, but people who support us buy from us anyway. There’s real longevity in the community aspect of the business.”
Their biggest annual event of the year happened on May 5: Free Comic Book Day. Everyone who shows up gets three free comic-books. There were cosplayers dressed up as Deadpool, Iron Man and Dr. Strange and kids got their pictures taken with the superheroes.