Westbrook gaming shop seeks more donations for expansion – Press Herald

Donations for the project have slowed down, but the owners of Westbrook gaming shop Weekend Anime are determined to expand with a second building.

“We are going for the building. As much as we can, we are getting it made,” co-owner Julie York said. “That’s the end goal, to have the space where our community can fit, because our events are packed. I have hope.”

A group plays a Magic: The Gathering draft at Weekend Anime in Westbrook before the pandemic. Contributed / Weekend Anime

Julie and Ryan York have raised $40,000 over the past year between a GoFundMe campaign and a number of other fundraisers. With those funds, the couple is preparing to hire a contractor to take care of electrical work and the foundation for the building behind their existing Main Street shop. And they’re working on re-boosting community support.

The shop’s gaming events are so popular they now have to be held at the Maine Mall, York said. The events range from big games of Dungeons and Dragons to full-blown competitive card tournaments for games like Magic The Gathering.

The shop used to hold most of its events, with dozens of participants, in-house, but during the pandemic it pivoted to focusing on online sales of merchandise. Much of what was once event space is now dedicated to that part of the business.

Plans for a second Weekend Anime building to be used for events got started about a year ago but took a bad turn. The past year has been “an emotional rollercoaster,” York said.

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York and her husband initially paid a contractor from New Hampshire about $125,000 to do the work. A year later, the couple has not heard from or been able to reach the contractor, who left them with an unusable shell of a building. They have filed a report with the Office of the Maine Attorney General and are pursuing a lawsuit against the contractor in New Hampshire, but their lawyer has told them the chances of getting their money back are slim to none, York said.

The couple now wants to move past that bad experience and focus on the positive community support they have received, Ryan York said.

Dedicated, regular Weekend Anime customers have donated money, Julie York said, while others have donated items for fundraising auctions. The parents of regular Carson Hooper, who died in 2017, donated his card collection, which was auctioned for more than $1,000.

A Weekend Anime ball raised $2,000, while a gaming tournament at Bull Moose brought in $5,000. More tournaments and fundraisers are being planned.

Mick Pratt said that like many other regular customers, her “formative years” were spent in the shop’s event space when it opened 17 years ago.

I think the community is special,” Pratt said. “It’s really sweet that at any given time, there are three to four queer people. Trans folks play regularly. It’s a very safe space.”

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“This becomes a place where they learn some of those (social) skills. Kids grew up here playing Pokémon. They grew up playing games,” York said. 

To donate, visit their GoFundMe page, “Help us Save our Expansion,” organized by Ryan and Julie York.

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