Shop of cards

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Church Street business caters to players

Naugatuck residents Justin Pickering, 17, and Luke Drury, 17, play a round of Magic: The Gathering Aug. 5 at Snap Keep Games on Church Street in Naugatuck. Snap Keep Games was opened by Matthew Kelley of Waterbury in May. -LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck residents Justin Pickering, 17, and Luke Drury, 17, play a round of Magic: The Gathering Aug. 5 at Snap Keep Games on Church Street in Naugatuck. Snap Keep Games was opened by Matthew Kelley of Waterbury in May. -LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — A Naugatuck native and Waterbury resident has given area youth a place to hang out while turning one of his passions into a business.

Matthew Kelley, 26, owns Snap Keep Games at 172 Church St. The shop sells cards for the game Magic: The Gathering, a multiple player trading card game, and other similar games.

For Kelley opening this store was an extension of what he’s been doing most of his life.

“I started gaming when I was 9. It was always more than a hobby. It was always something that was serious in my group of friends. We were all tournament players,” Kelley said.

Kelley said it was his knowledge and love of gaming that led him to open Snap Keep Games. It was his fond memories of the borough that led him to open it in Naugatuck.

“I grew up on Spruce Street until I was 8 or 9. I remembered Naugatuck and I always really liked Church Street. It was a cool little place. I looked at a couple shops down here and ended up going with this one. But I knew I wanted to be on Church Street,” Kelley said.

For Kelley, who opened his shop in May, his business is about more than making money. It’s about providing a location for people to be able to be themselves and have fun.

“Basically it’s a good environment for people to hang out and play the games or hobbies they enjoy,” Kelley said.

The small store is lined with posters from Magic and a calendar telling players what is happening at the store when. Near the back there are shelves with a variety of Magic cards on them. The rest of the store is taken up by four long tables, at which people can sit and play the game of their choice.

This is exactly the way Kelley wants it.

“I think we have a really good environment. We’re pretty carefree,” Kelley said. “A lot of shops are very abrasive. Come in, spend your money, and leave. I don’t really care. The point is to sit and play your game. If you spend money, you spend money, but I want people playing, having a good time and doing what they want to do. The money is secondary to us. We’re here to support the scene, not necessarily to profit from it.”

This attitude has made a big impression with the gamers in the area.

On Aug. 5 Charles Martins, 16, of Naugatuck was among a handful of teens playing Magic at the shop. He said the atmosphere of the store is one reason he keeps coming back.

“This is the first store that I’ve known of that we’ve had in Naugatuck ever,” said Martins in reference to a game shop. “My personal experiences here have always been great. It’s very much a player store. It’s not so much about making money here. It’s definitely a player store, geared toward the players, for the players.”

Martins said he has been playing Magic for two years, but has recently become more involved with the game since the store opened.

“I had somewhere to come and actually play all the time rather than just being at home, playing with my buddies,” Martins said.

Kelley said the games played at his store tend to draw people who may have trouble fitting in socially. The store provides a place for teenagers, who were similar to him growing up.   

“We’re all social misfits,” Kelley said. “We all don’t know how to make friends. We all have wild imaginations as kids. We find these games made by people like us with the same imaginations. And lo and behold by playing this game every Friday you can go and make 15 people your friends and chill all night for $5.”

Kelley said he has had friends for 15 years solely because they played Magic together.

Snap Keep Games hosts a Magic tournament every Friday evening beginning at 7 p.m. The shop also hosts Warhammer 40,000 games. Kelley hopes to soon have the shop hosting Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh card games, as well as role playing games.

Kelley said these games can help teens who are bad in social situations learn to overcome their shyness and work together.

“It’s a way for people who are socially inept to learn how to not be socially inept, which is awesome. It’s one of the many hidden benefits of things like Magic and [Dungeons and Dragons] and Warhammer. You have to work together with people and learn how to communicate. You have to learn social skills. You can’t just yell at your opponent. You wouldn’t play very long,” Kelley said.

Kelley said his store as been a hit with parents as well.

“They know exactly where their child is and exactly what their child is doing. So that’s another really good hidden benefit,” Kelley said.

Luke Drury, 17, of Naugatuck, has been playing Magic since he was young.

He said most of his family plays Magic, but he still likes to come down to Snap Keep Games to play against other people.

“I can get more experience playing with random people who just want to play a game. Otherwise I will just be playing with my own family, and I know what kind of strategies they play. So I get more experience this way,” Drury said.

For Justin Pickering, 17, of Naugatuck, this is the only place he has a chance to play Magic.

“I love coming down here to hang out. It’s the only place I like hanging out around Naugatuck,” Pickering said.

While teenagers do make up a sizeable portion of Kelley’s cliental, they are not the only people who can be found around the tables in the shops.

Kelley said people of all ages come in to play, including a few officers with the Naugatuck Police Department.

Kelley has plans to expand his business to include a few other games and hopes to host a video game tournament in the future. Regardless of how he changes his shop he wants to provide a place for people to come and play the games they love.

 “I love being here. It’s such a great community,” Kelley said.