Shop Local: ‘I’m still pushing as much as possible’ - how one man hopes to keep up with changing times

PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 November 2020

John Freeman (pictured), owner of The Hobbit Hole in Chatteris, used to hold Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments at his shop on High Street but has had to adapt business due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: IAN CARTER

John Freeman (pictured), owner of The Hobbit Hole in Chatteris, used to hold Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments at his shop on High Street but has had to adapt business due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: IAN CARTER

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A gaming paradise awaits you at perhaps one of Chatteris’ most quirky shops, which has had to adapt its ways in a bid to keep up with changing times.

John Freeman, owner of The Hobbit Hole in Chatteris, used to hold Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments at his shop on High Street but has had to adapt business due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: IAN CARTERJohn Freeman, owner of The Hobbit Hole in Chatteris, used to hold Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments at his shop on High Street but has had to adapt business due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: IAN CARTER

“I thought ‘what the hell am I going to name my shop?’ I thought I’d get a name so people would know it’s a game shop,” John Freeman, owner of The Hobbit Hole, said.

Since 2014, John has been providing fun nights and friendly competition for youngsters and adults at The Hobbit Hole, including Yu-Gi-Oh! card tournaments, as well as a range of board games.

It’s events like these that have made John’s shop an exciting place to be for many gaming fans, but since Covid-19 arrived, he has had to come to terms with a new way of business.

“When we first opened, I had regular Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments. I had about 20 regulars for a tournament,” John said.

“It was huge for a while, but I’m still running events like Friday night magic online. I’ve had to change the entire way we operate.

Before the pandemic, up to 24 people could be in the shop at any one time, but now more emphasis has been online and social media to help keep his business afloat.

There was a resurgence in board game sales over the summer, and on top of a government grant received in April, John has been given a glimour of hope.

“It’s particularly Friday nights, where I could get up to 24 people maximum in the shop, and while they were here, they would buy booster packs,” he said.

“With Covid, we couldn’t do that, so I have instead reinvented myself online. People were stuck at home and they’re bored, and had enough of the things they’ve got.”

Perhaps one of John’s proudest memories as shop owner is when one of his gamers made it to the top level of competitive gaming.

Highlights like these bring John some positivity amid dark times, but he is determined to keep calm and carry on.

“Business has gone well, but since October, everything has been grinding to a halt,” he said.

“I think it’s because some customers have returned to work having worked from home.

“Others find out that they don’t have a job to go back to, but I’m still pushing as much as possible.”

To purchase a game, find The Hobbit Hole on 53 High Street, call 07940 641128, visit their Facebook page or their website: https://bit.ly/383NjyT.

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