- Eric Schwartzberg Staff Writer
Aurora Distributing in Hamilton is looking to establish itself as a safe place for area youth looking to avoid drug use and bullying.
The gaming and hobbies storefront, which sprang forth earlier this year at 57 N. Brookwood Ave. from a years-old gaming supply company, carries the largest selection of scenery within 200 miles to build a tabletop game board, according to founder and co-owner Eric Goodwin.
“Not only that, but it’s the same scenery that model railroaders love,” Goodwin said. “That’s what they use to make their entire layout, but even more than that, it’s the same layout kids would use to build a school diorama.”
How-to clinics help customers of all ages learn how to use the material and help them build that, Goodwin said.
“Our ultimate goal is to get Hamilton, Fairfield, Middletown, Edgewood and a lot of these local school districts around here set up with game clubs, even if we have to donate the merchandise,” he said. “A lot of times, there’s that category of children that’s completely missed in the school system and it’s usually the ‘smart kids,’ as they’re labeled.
Many times, those are the same children who also have social anxiety, Goodwin said.
“You get them sitting down playing a game, it might take five minutes it might take 45 minutes, but finally they open up,” he said. “It opens up their entire world and all the problems that they’ve had in a day they can sit down and they can cover.”
But Goodwin said the storefront is not meant to be a moneymaker. The gaming distribution part of the business already handles that.
“This isn’t about how much profit this store can make, this is about that one person who comes back in 10 years and says ‘Thank you. Because of you I was able to do this,’” he said. “We’re a distribution company. We don’t have to have the local community as retail customers to survive. We put this in for the community to give back to the community.”
The painstakingly hand-painted items throughout the storefront’s gaming boards are courtesy of Aaron Woolums, a Madison Jr./Sr. High School teacher who heads a gaming club there, who takes the money he makes from painting and reinvests it into the club for his students.
“We’re hoping to get a large number of these school districts around here with game clubs and we can actually hold sanctioned tournaments for the school districts to compete for another trophy to put in their display cases,” Goodwin said.
At Northridge High School near Dayton, a custodian realized students needed help and stepped up to ask Aurora Distributing to help form a gaming club at the school, he said.
Aurora Distributing hosts not only offers them access to gaming events, but also free use of video games and streaming entertainment, such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and Showtime, on a 65-inch 4K television.
“As long as it’s age appropriate, that’s all that matters,” Goodwin said.
He was inspired to open a storefront by his teenage son, who told him shortly after last year’s fatal Madison school shooting that local youth have fewer safe options than his generation and more daunting challenges with which to wrestle, including rampant drug use and cyberbullying.
“He told me, ‘If they only had a spot like this to come to, maybe things wouldn’t have worked out the way they did’ … and it broke my heart,” said Goodwin, visibly moved.
In addition to gaming clubs and other activities, the store offers T-shirts for $15, with $3.50 of that “going back into the community, one way or another.”
Goodwin said he also delivers pizza four nights a week to put what he’s earned toward donations to give products out to children to keep them off the streets or from becoming a heroin addict.
Students often stop by the store for a spot to hang out during the transition between school and work.
A 35-foot, $1,500 aluminum track allows children to race pinewood derby cars, “so when they’re done building their cars, we’ll have a race for them,” Goodwin said.
Aurora Distributing also wants to donate $2,000 worth of those customizeable cars — and the supplies needed to decorate them — to organizations with after-school programs that keep kids off the streets.
For more information, call 513-805-7755.