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The Magic touch

• A popular fantasy card game gives Lorna Klein the needed push to expand her games business.


Citizen Business Writer

When Lorna Klein moved to Tucson five years ago, she got involved in role-playing games. But it wasn’t enough for her to play the games; Klein wanted to make a living from them.

So the single mother of two boys approached the owner of Things for Thinkers, the midtown game store she frequented, and told the owner she wanted to open a games room nearby where people can meet and play.

Not only did she open the game room, called Imaginary Worlds of Gaming, but she ended up buying the 20-year-old store in 1993 when the owner Bill Winski wanted to pursue another business in Denver.

”It was a freak thing,”said Klein, about her purchase of the store. ”This was the business where I met and played with the people I hooked up with when I first moved to Tucson.”

When she took over the company, Klein, 42, kept the same types of games the store had promoted for the past two decades: board games, such as chess and Risk; games that mimic historical battles, such as those in the Civil War or World War II; and interactive role-playing games, in which players become characters. Many are offshoots of the original Dungeons & Dragons series, which was popular in the 1980s.

Another section of her store is filled with 1-inch miniature fantasy and science-fiction characters. Customers paint them and use the models in role-playing games.

Klein said business was steady until August 1993, when a game called Magic: The Gathering hit Tucson.

The widespread popularity of the game brought in hundreds of new customers.

”This game was phenomenal for business,” Klein said. ”In one year, we more than doubled our sales because of Magic and other games that followed.”

Magic is an interactive fantasy card game complete with wizards and dragons. Serious players can spend big bucks trying to come up with strong decks to beat out an opponent.

”I’ve probably spent at least a few thousand dollars on Magic,” said Ben Penner, 21, who started playing a few years ago.

Customers such as Penner made it possible for Klein to open a second store in Tempe a couple of years ago.

”Without this new interest in card games, I would not have been able to expand,” she said.

But even if the trend in card games dies, Klein said her store will continue to prosper because customers such as Ron Cover are passing the gaming bug down to their children.

”I started my son on some board games when he was 3 years old but I simplified it,” said Cover, an insurance claims processor who has been coming to Things for Thinkers since 1978. ”The games make him use math and it keeps his mind active. It’s fun at any level.”

Others are just trying to recapture their youth.

”These are the kind of toys I wish I had when I was a kid,” said Brad Ford, 36, a corrections officer who collects and plays with miniatures. ”I play, my wife paints them and I’m teaching my 8-yearold son, Andrew, to play. It’s a great stress reliever.”

Q&A: Lorna Klein of Things for Thinkers

What is the best business decision you’ve ever made?

Buying the store in the first place. I enjoy it and knew it would be a good investment.

What is the worst business decision you’ve ever made?

Trying to keep up with all the card games that followed Magic: The Gathering. They came out too fast and too many. Most were lousy games and didn’t do well.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Expanding. A friend convinced me to open the second store in Tempe.

What is the worst advice you’ve ever received?

Really can’t think of anything. If someone did, I obviously didn’t listen to them.

How do you attract customers?

Mostly by word of mouth, plus our gaming center attracts a lot of new customers.

How do you keep good employees?

Working here is fun, so I don’t have a problem keeping employees.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Expand the Tucson store.

What is the secret to your success?

Hard work and knowing the games.


Business: Strategic board games, interactive role-playing and card games

Owner: Lorna Klein

Address: 4500 E. Speedway Blvd., Suite 40

Phone: 326-7679

Founded: 1977, purchased by Klein in 1993

Employees: 3

Gaming Center: Imaginary Worlds of Gaming

Address: 4500 E. Speedway Blvd., Suite 15

Phone: 321-0291

Things for Thinkers’ Tempe location: 2155 E. University Drive

Phone: (602) 968-8819


Seth Anglin, Frank Trejo and Jeremy Brower (from left) play a game of Magic: The Gathering at a tournament recently while Luke Moore looks on. The tournament was played at Imaginary Worlds of Gaming.

The game, Magic, sent Lorna Klein’s business, Things for Thinkers, soaring when it hit Tucson in 1993.

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