Kirby Whited is one of those fortunate people who has been able to turn a hobby he enjoys into a business he enjoys even more.
Whited owns and operates Station 76, a local shop that offers cards, comics, games, model kits, and other gaming-related items. Located on Court Street at the former Main Street Ripley office, the business is now on its third move.
“We started out in a small location in the building where Jackson Signs is,” Whited said. “But that wasn’t large enough, so I moved to a bigger spot on Court Street. But I soon outgrew that as well. I hope I’m at my final move.”
According to Whited, he needed more space to expand inventory, but more importantly, was the need for more room for gamers to play.
“The closest places for people who love this kind of thing, and there are a lot of them,” Whited said, “is Charleston or Parkersburg. I have people that come from around here and close by counties, but also from Ohio. And I even have some that, ironically, come here from Charleston and Parkersburg.”
The two most popular attractions for gamers at Station 76 are Magic the Gathering and Warhammer.
“Magic the Gathering is a strategic card game,” Whited explained. “It was actually designed by Richard Garfield back in 1993 as a way to teach his autistic son to read and count. Now it’s worldwide.”
Each player attempts to build a 60-card pack. Station 76 carries cards for gamers to purchase. At the end of play for the night, card prizes are given to the top players. But at Whited’s games, no one leaves without at least one card.
“Each player pays an entry fee,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to leave without something for their money. I don’t know of any other game store that does that. I know everyone appreciates it.”
Whited says Warhammer is also very popular with gamers.
“It’s a war game with a medieval fantasy theme,” he stated. “Each player builds miniatures from model kits and we simulate battles between armies.”
Station 76 has products and games that attract all ages.
“We had a learning day for kids,” he said. “They came with their parents and we had volunteers here to teach them the basics. That was a fun day. I also sell sports cards but only in packs that are a good price for kids to be able to buy.”
A large part of the business is ordering kits, cards, and comic books for customers. Whited says he checks daily with distributors to see what items are currently available or can be pre-ordered. Sometimes people ask for something very specific.
“I had one guy come in looking for a very particular paint for a model,” Whited said. “I didn’t have it but I’ll find it for him.”
What probably means the most for Whited, who is also a Jackson County school bus driver, is providing a place for those who are interested in strategy games to feel welcome.
“I’ve had parents tell me that I’ll never know what it means for their children to have a safe place to come to,” he said. “This doesn’t appeal to everyone and sometimes people misunderstand what these games are. It’s no more fantasy than “Game of Thrones” and no different than playing most board games.”
As for the future of Station 76, which got its name from Whited’s time as a firefighter EMT and the year he was born, inventory will expand.
“I want to get more model kits for Warhammer and Gundam kits that will go along with the animated series,” he said.
Daniel Jackson, who Whited credits with convincing him to add Warhammer to his store, thinks having Station 76 in Ripley is ideal.
“It’s excellent,” he said. “I’m very glad to have something so accessible.”