John Nyman and John Odermann are kindred spirits.
Each man considers himself to be a “geek.” While they’re geekiness isn’t exactly the same, they’ve decided it could make for a great business partnership.
The Dickinson men have opened a store together where they hope other so-called geeks can come together and enjoy their hobbies and interests.
“Geeks tend to stick together,” Odermann said with a smile. “We like to talk to each other about the things that we like.”
Badlands Comics and Games opened Thursday, May 30 on West Villard in Dickinson. It’s the first store of its kind in the city and the first to sell a variety of comic books in more than two decades. The store will sell comic books, tabletop games, role-playing games and trading card games, and will also provide game rooms where customers can spend long hours playing their games with friends or even hold tournaments.
Nyman is taking care of the day-to-day operations and the gaming side. “Gaming has always been a passion of mine,” Nyman said.
Odermann will work there when it doesn’t conflict with his day job and will serve as the store’s “comic book guy.”
“I’ve been reading comic books since I was 6 years old,” he said.
The two said they wanted to open the store a week earlier but were waiting until the shelves were stocked and the store felt full and ready.
“Since the first day we put the sign up, we’ve had people stopping in and trying to buy stuff,” Odermann said. “But we just haven’t been ready to open yet. It’s one of those things where you don’t want to jump the gun and open before you’re ready. But we’re ready now.”
Nyman is a native Texan who spent 19 years in Indiana before moving to Dickinson a year ago with his wife and two of his children.
He was the facilities manager at Trinity High School until the March 3 fire there left him without any facilities to manage. It forced the school to let him go
Nyman said he had often thought about starting his own business, but never figured a comic book and games store would be it. He always assumed he’d open a restaurant since he worked in the food service industry for two decades, rising as high as general manager.
“I saw this as almost a divine message,” he said. “I would say the fire at the high school really was a catalyst of pushing the timetable on this a little quicker.”
Nyman said he promised his father that he’d use some of his inheritance money to invest, and considers opening the store honoring that promise.
“When I told him that, I thought it’d be investing in mutual funds,” he said with a laugh. “I never thought I’d be in a position where I needed a job. Why not invest in myself?”
Odermann grew up on a ranch north of Belfield and returned to the area in 2007 after he graduated from college.
He went on to work for a couple different area businesses, including spending some time as a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Eventually, he began working for Pason Systems — an oilfield service company — before leaving there to become the director of advancement and head football coach at Trinity High School, where he met Nyman.
A self-proclaimed comic book geek, Odermann said he learned to read after picking up comic books at Buttrey Food & Drug and Dan’s Super-Market as a child. He went on to amass a large comic book collection that continues to grow.
Opening a comic book store has always been one of his dreams.
“I’m in a position in my life now where I can invest in something like this and help something like this get off the ground,” he said; “It’s time. And with how Dickinson is growing, I think there’s a good opportunity here. The response that we’ve gotten from people across the whole spectrum is pretty positive.”
Odermann added that his commitments to Trinity won’t allow him to spend a lot of time at the store, though he’ll have the majority of input on which comics the store stocks.
“Every Wednesday is new comic book day,” he said. “We’re going to have new inventory every Wednesday. That’s exciting for me. We didn’t have anything like this when I was growing up.”
Nyman and Odermann envision the store becoming a place where gamers — especially kids — can meet, strike up friendships and feel like they belong.
“We want people to really take ownership of this place,” Odermann said. “That’s what it’s really about. We want people to feel like they’ve got a home away from home.”
Nyman said there will be rules against unruly game play as well.
“One of the things I really want is for this to be a place where parents feel comfortable with their kids coming,” Nyman said. “It’s not going to be an environment with sexist, racist comments, vulgarity — things of that nature.”
Odermann said the games also provide an important social outlet and development aspect.
“When kids are coming in here and they’re playing games with each other and they’re talking to each other, it’s a lot different than texting on your phone,” he said.
Nyman and Odermann said they want people who are even a little interested in gaming or comic books to stop in and check out the store, whether they’re casually interested in comics or a regular Magic: The Gathering player.
“There’s something here for every age group,” Odermann said. “I’d encourage people to stop in and check out what we’ve got. If you’re new to gaming or new to comic books, we’ll do our best to steer you in the direction of what we think is best for you. We’ll ask you what kind of stuff you like and hopefully we have something you find appealing and you keep coming back in.”