Wenatchee Valley Business World

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Eye On | Sanctuary — Making Magic happen: Playing to, and for, his audience

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Thaddeus Deane, at right, owner of Sanctuary, answers a question about how two Magic cards interact with each other in a particular situation during a game. The store specializes in the game Magic: The Gathering.

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To Thaddeus Deane’s customers, the name of his store could not be any more fitting. The venue is a Sanctuary for people to pursue their Magic: The Gathering hobby, and to just spend time enjoying conversations with people who share that interest in a positive environment.

Sanctuary opened in 1999, and is at 509 N Western Ave. No. 111, Wenatchee, open Tuesday through Saturday.

Deane, a former Navy SEAL, opened the store after suffering an industrial accident, knowing that there would be interest in Wenatchee because of his own experience with the Magic community.

I got into the collectible card game, and it was amazing. It was a monster, and it brought people together,” Deane said. “We had a group at Abby’s Pizza (right next to the store’s current location) way back in 1996 or so. People would play Magic over there, and suddenly it went from eight people to… 50 people.”

He attributes the original concept to “divine inspiration.”

I had an epiphany. I woke up in the middle of the night, and the whole idea for the store and how to run it was just all in my mind,” Deane said. “I was really excited about it, and I wrote about it for a good part of two days. After the injury, I started thinking ‘there’s a business there, and I’m going to try it.’”

While you might expect a specific customer demographic for such a specialty-focused business, Deane sees people from all walks of life come through his door. The experience and skill levels are also varied — Sanctuary has just as much to offer for an experienced player as a new one.

It bridges the generation gap,” Deane said. “We have anybody in here from (ages) 7, 8, 9, to 59.”

As Sanctuary calls to a diverse group of people, Deane works hard to make the store a safe and respectful environment to anyone.

I like to create a positive-energy environment, and that includes having a swear jar,” Deane said. “I’ll issue warnings, but eventually you have to put a quarter in the swear jar. If you don’t, you have to leave. Once the money hits $100, we hold a tournament. That’s the only cash tournament I run. The money supports the environment I’m trying to create, and the money goes back to the customers in the end. We all play this game to have fun. You have to take it with a grain of salt too: it’s just a game.”

Three is when the kids are coming out of school, so I see a business spike from 3 to 5 or so,” Deane said. “My hours have flipped throughout the year, but I’ve stabilized to what’s best for me. During the summer, if there’s people still in here, I’ll stay later.”

As the business has a communal environment, it sees a lot of repeat business. Players are drawn back to the store to participate in Magic the Gathering tournaments and weekly events. Every Friday, players can participate in a draft tournament called Friday Night Magic. A draft event is when a player opens a pack, selects a card from it, than passes the remaining contents of the pack to the person next to them. This process is repeated until each player has three packs worth of drafted cards.

Another facet of the business pulls people back to the store: a sealed, highlander, eternal, Magic league. The league has been operating for almost four years, and although the complete rules are far too complicated to concisely explain, the basic concept is that you start off with a small pool of cards which you obtain from opening packs. This pool is expanded very slowly over time and balanced so that more competitive players who are willing to drop more money on cards do not hold a significant advantage over more casual players — games are decided by skill and luck of the draw. Customers can buy into the league for $35, which covers the costs of their initial card pool.

While Deane had to jump through all of the usual hoops to start up Sanctuary, it wasn’t long before he had established a community staple for the Wenatchee Magic: The Gathering scene.

I borrowed a loan from a family member, I paid it back, and I’ve been up-and-running ever since,” Deane said. “It’s been fun. I’ve brought in people from all walks of life together and some of the kids who came in earlier … are coming in with their kids. I feel very blessed and lucky to be doing what I do.”

While Deane enjoys serving the Magic community and spreading his love of the game with others, at the end of the day, running a business is running a business. While some of the more menial parts of operating Sanctuary can be mitigated by his passion for it, it’s still work.

You are your own boss, which has many hats to wear, and also has the trials and tribulations thereof,” Deane said. “It’s sometimes touch-and-go, and other times it’s good. I wouldn’t be here if the area and the public didn’t support me.”

Over the 18 years, he’s found ways to handle the rainy days while enjoying the sunny ones.

You have to think ahead… You need to have a nest egg to built up to rely upon,” Deane said. “Pay (loans) off as soon as possible, don’t owe anybody any money.”

It’s been running for more than three years, and people are still having a blast with all of it,” Deane said. “We’re touching 170 (participants), but not everybody is here all the time. You can withdraw your decks at any time — they’re your cards — but that means withdrawing from the league.”

Sanctuary mostly relies on word-of-mouth promotion to get people through the door, and the positive environment and events makes it hard to resist coming back.

This is the only place where they hold drafts on a consistent basis, no one else does that in this valley at all,” John Hudson said. Hudson is a regular customer at Sanctuary. “I like to play Magic a lot … If I’m bored and want to play a game, I can ask anybody to play a game.”

I’m a veteran, and so I still feel like I’m serving my country in this capacity,” Deane said. “I’ve had my hands on the pulse of the American future with kids, and I do my best to influence them in a positive manner. I think it’s made a difference in some people’s lives, and I feel very fortunate to be able to continue what I’m doing.”