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Oct 2, 2017 11:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Salmon Importer Turned Video Game Aficionado Sets Up Shop In Eastport

Rob Fogarty took the leap from full-time salmon importing to gaming with his East End Gaming store in Eastport. KATE RIGA
Oct 2, 2017 11:39 AM

Eastport’s typically quiet Main Street, a stretch of Montauk Highway dotted with antique stores and barber shops, has a new eye-catching attraction: a life-sized Mario dancing on the side of the road.Mario’s home, East End Gaming, is unobtrusively tucked onto the hamlet’s main business strip. But its tiny insides explode with attention-grabbing color. Stuffed video game characters hang in the front window, games and consoles line the deep blue walls and an island of toys sits in the middle. The computers in the front, hooked up to be played, emit beeps and music as the video game characters stand at the ready.

The store’s founder, Rob Fogarty of East Moriches, is also more than he appears. Now the proud owner of the eight-month-old shop, his daily work for the past 18 years has been in the salmon industry. An exporter since 1999, he’s worked since 2011 on the importation side for H&N Foods International Inc based in Los Angeles, fostering his lifelong love of retro video games as a private passion.

Without the support of his wife, Wendy, Mr. Fogarty might still be dealing exclusively in fish.

“I’ve been collecting my whole life, and had a lot of extra stuff myself,” he said one a recent Friday. “I really wanted to open a store, but was afraid to do it. I waited a year and my wife pushed me into it.”

Their leap of faith is paying off. The store has grown exponentially since its opening, the products often overflowing the bounds of the tiny space and its Facebook page nabbing nearly 1,000 followers, some of whom left glowing reviews praising the warm environment curated by the Fogartys and their children—15-year-old Haley and 12-year-old Tyler. Both help out at the store.

“This store is great!” reads a typical review left by Jessie Conklin of Holtsville. “The owner and family are all friendly, helpful, and great to be around. They have a huge selection of games for every retro system, and every time I visit, there’s more.”

Mr. Fogarty agrees that his family’s participation helps create the atmosphere he wants. In fact, it is his daughter, Haley, who often puts on the Mario costume and waves to passing motorists.

“A lot of the moms and wives come in with their kids, and having the whole family here creates a really great dynamic,” he said. “We’ll stick with the family as long as we can until we get too busy and need to hire more help. It’s growing so rapidly.”

Mr. Fogarty wants to extend the familial embrace to the community where he has felt so accepted. Throughout their months of operation, the Fogartys have made it clear that they want their store to be a place of fun and bonding, coming out to walk children across the busy street so they can come to the store unaccompanied, watching kids while their parents run errands, spending hours playing games with people who are lonely or bored, and maintaining a wish list for customers who will be the first ones to get a call when their games come in.

“Remember when me, you and Tom watched YouTube videos for like two hours?” Tyler asked his Dad, describing a happy memory with a customer.

Even the way the store operates adds to the “mini-community center” dynamic, as Mr. Fogarty coined it. Customers bring in games in exchange for cash or an even greater amount of store credit. Mr. Fogarty makes sure to reimburse them for more than chains like GameStop do, to keep his client base happy and returning. His expertise allows him to price most games on sight, and he uses online listings to pay for the few he doesn’t recognize.

The trade system keeps his inventory constantly in flux, a treasure trove for eager gamers.

“A store like this is evolving every day,” Mr. Fogarty said. “A customer said it well on Facebook: ‘It’s the kind of store that you go in, and if you see something you want, you kind of need to buy it, because it might not be there next time.’”

Mr. Fogarty is already looking to expand, keeping his eye on spaces as much as three times his current store and is full of ideas for a bigger store, like establishing a permanent area for tournament play and developing a board game section. But for now, he’s just enjoying the novel experience of getting to do what he loves every day.

“If I can create a space where people can come and browse and play, I’m happiest to be able to do that,” he said. “I want to make money doing this, but it’s not the most important thing to me right now. I want to grow the business, get the community involved, and play games with people.”

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A revitalization of this Main Street would be incredible!
By Mouthampton (354), Southampton on Oct 3, 17 8:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
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