FRABuSEL, In Memoriam


Hey everyone, it’s been a while since the last update, for which I apologise. Unfortunately, there’s a pretty sad reason for today’s post, as my favourite hobby store, FRABuSEL, will be closing its doors come the end of the month. So I’d like the opportunity to talk about the store a bit and share some memories of the last couple of years. Let this serve as a heartfelt eulogy to my favourite FLGS:

FRABuSEL's storefront: Taking a look at the various armies presented there always made me come away with a new conversion idea or two.

FRABuSEL’s storefront: Taking a look at the various armies presented there always made me come away with a new conversion idea or two.

I only really found out about FRABuSEL’s fate last week, when I swung by the store to pick up a pot of paint or two: I was faced with half-empty shelves and a jumble of moving boxes. And sure enough, Carsten – the owner – confirmed my suspicions: Due to the recent lack of sales, and especially due to the lack of new customers, running the store had turned out to no longer be economically viable. Now you can probably imagine that this came as a bit of a shock to me: I had been purchasing virtually all of my hobby products (with the exception of some specific bitz purchases) at the store for the last couple of years (and at FRABuSEL’s predecessor store Spieltraum for more than a decade beforehand), and most of my armies and warbands consist of models purchased at the store:

Khorne's Eternal Hunt 2016 (1) big

And for a good reason, because FRABuSEL wasn’t merely the closest and most convenient location to pick up new plastic crack, but also a teriffic store in its own right: Carsten ran a great business and was always quick with good advice or a fair discount. What’s more, as is a sign of all the best hobby stores, FRABuSEL was also a venue for all kinds of events and friendly games, and while I am not a huge gamer myself, Khorne’s Eternal Hunt did see quite a few outings against its enemies on the tables provided by the store, and some of those games remain among my favourite tabletop moments (such as that one time I wiped the table with my cousin’s Dark Eldar and then let victory elude my grasp because I actually played too much like a World Eater).

Khorne's Eternal Hunt facing off against a coalition of Craftworld Eldar and their dark kin at FRABuSEL

Khorne’s Eternal Hunt facing off against a coalition of Craftworld Eldar and their dark kin at FRABuSEL

It helped that the business side of things was excellent as well, of course: Carsten stocked a lot of products that would otherwise have been a bit of a hassle to get hold of (ranging from a wide range of Vallejo colours to all kinds of OOP GW metal models). And whenever the internet erupted in cries of misery due to a newly released model or boxed set selling out about 3.5 minutes after first becoming available, I could rest easy in the knowledge that a copy of it would be waiting at FRABuSEL for me the coming week, should I wish to pick it up. And whenever I read about more and more hobby stores around the world closing their doors, I was happy to know that my own FLGS was still around — and hopefully would remain so for a long time to come!

Discovering excellent models, such as this Looted Knight, courtesy of the store's other regulars, was always an additional treat!

Discovering excellent models, such as this Looted Knight, courtesy of the store’s other regulars, was always an additional treat!

Only now it won’t be around any longer, and that really sucks! It makes picking up new hobby supplies more complicated (and much less personal), but that’s only the smallest part of the problem , obviously. It also means one less place for getting in touch with other hobbyists, sharing friendly banter and advice, and for immersing myself in this particular part of hobby culture.

Granted, this is certainly only a part of much bigger developments, with more and more specialist and special interest stores going out of business, while people primarily buy online. But while the internet has done lots of good for our hobby, providing forums, blogs and communities that foster communication and the exchange of ideas and hobby projects, it has also been doing a hell of a number on the brick and mortar stores that have been real hearthfires, so to speak, for hobbyists for years and years. The same is obviously true for all kinds of smaller, owner-managed stores, as more and more of them drop out of the race at. And maybe that’s just the way of the world. But its’s a bad way, and it leaves all our cities looking exactly the same, with just the same five big store chains endlessly arranging and re-arranging their respective stores in slightly different configurations.

One of Carsten's own models, a Soulgrinder well-known to regular customers.

One of Carsten’s own models, a Soulgrinder well-known to regular customers.


But back to this particular story: I dropped by the store one last time last Friday, and dug through the packing crates with models in order to score some final deals. It did feel like helping to pick clean the bones of a former pet, to be honest, even after Carsten repeatedly assured me that every sale helped. But yeah, it wasn’t a particularly happy day, for obvious reasons.

One of the crates containing heaps of miniature blisters. Digging through these for the last time did leave a bittersweet feeling...

One of the crates containing heaps of miniature blisters. Digging through these for the last time did leave a bittersweet feeling…


So here’s to FRABuSEL, my favourite FLGS, and the store that launched a thousand armies (three or four in my case alone, actually)! And here’s to Carsten, who was always a pillar of the community, and to whom I wish all the best from the bottom of my heart!

So if you have any brick and mortar stores in your vincinity that you like, please make sure to spend some money there as soon as possible, lest they share the same fate — that 20% discount online may seem tempting now, but those guys at the big online sellers are not going to provide any tables for you to play on, and neither will they remember you when someone brings in a huge box of odds and ends and allow you to dig through it at your leisure — just sayin’…

In spite of everything, I would like to wrap up this somewhat sad post on a slightly uplifting note, and maybe I have just the thing for that: In addition to the stuff I purchased during my last two visits, Carsten also gave me a Space Wolves model he had assembled himself as a small gift. And the least I could do was to give this poor straggler a new home. So I just made a few small tweaks…

Kharrsten Bloodhowl WIP (1)
Kharrsten Bloodhowl WIP (2)
Kharrsten Bloodhowl WIP (3)
…and now Kharrsten Bloodhowl, the Death-Dealer, stands ready to join my next batch of traitorous Space Wolves and ultimately become a part of Khorne’s Eternal Hunt:

New Blood Wolves WIP
It’s a very small gesture, to be sure, but one that at least seems like a neat little tribute to me πŸ˜‰

So thanks again to Carsten for running an amazing store over these last years! And, as always, thanks to your for looking! Stay tuned for more!

Carsten's Imperial Guard, now heading for another battlefield. The Emperor protect you, soldiers!

Carsten’s Imperial Guard, now heading for a different battlefield. The Emperor protect you, soldiers!

25 Responses to “FRABuSEL, In Memoriam”

  1. This is simply put your best article as it really touched a nerve with me. Keeping our FLGS’ alive and well is vital for the continued growth of our community and with that our hobby. A web store can’t do that.

  2. Yeah, it’s a real shame when a local shop like that shuts down. I’ve worked in a couple of small shops that closed and they certainly brought a lot more to the community than the faceless chains that replaced. Plus, when I go somewhere new I want to see that place and the things that make it special, not just the same old shops and restaurants I’m used to.
    I’m lucky that where I live we still mostly have local shops. The one thing that’s missing is a game store which is a pity because it would be nice to have somewhere to get together with other hobbyists. A bargain is a bargain (and I’m skint enough that I can’t pretend otherwise!) but a local shop buys you a better experience and all the extra things that come with shopping there are worth a lot more than the 20% markup.

    • Yeah, I’ve always considered the extra service offered by the store well worth the slightly higher price — and the store did actually offer tidy discounts, just not on the scale of what you see online. Anyway, I would gladly have continued to buy just about all of my hobby stuff there, believe me…

  3. Sad tale dude, and a sorry sign of the times.

  4. Inquisitor Mikhailovich Says:

    Sad, to be sure, but a fantastic little tribute at the end, to be sure. I agree that the trend is unfortunate. I wish I could do more to help slow it but I have no money for models either online or in store…

    As for the internet connecting hobbyists, would you like to move forward with our collaborative lore project?

  5. A timely reminder that FLGS need lots of support in the internet age – I always make a point of buying any big box GW releases that interest me along with small consumables only my weekly visit to my FLGS. I still get a discount relative to GW retail in this scenario – so in effect I pay the equivalent of a few percent of purchase premium over the online discounters I get a place to play for free as well as free left over bits to pick over. Bargain really.

  6. Augustus b'Raass Says:

    As one having shared the same fate as Carsten over 17 years ago, and the same feeling as you over three times in the last two decades, I feel you pain!! Here’s to Carsten and FRABuSEL!!

  7. Dexter Says:

    I’ve seen way too many of these stores shut down. A decade ago, the GW Battle Bunker was a half hour drive away, until it moved to Memphis to be closer to a major shipping hub. And when it moved, the FLGS started to pop up all over the place. It was refreshing to be able to go into a store, not have some poor sap in a red polo who needed you to spend $500 so he could feed his family for another week on your ass the whole time, and be able to have real conversations with the people that work there. I only began playing games in the last year, and even now the only game I play is Malifaux. While I still get plenty of GW stuff online (because I mostly purchase bits these days), I still get every GW boxed set I purchase, as well as every Malifaux product, from my FLGS. I worry about them when I’m in there. It always seems like even when the place is full, everyone is gaming and no one is buying. Whenever I went there to get a game in, I made sure I bought something, even if it was a bottle of Vallejo paint, to support the place.
    Recently I constructed a table in my garage for gaming. I probably won’t be visiting that FLGS that much anymore, being the reclusive guy that you know I am, but if I end up needing a purchase for my crews, that’s where I’ll go to get it.
    I really have trouble looking at these stores and figuring out how they make their money. I was there for a four hour game once, and saw the two on-duty employees ring up perhaps three purchases between them. These were not giant GW starter kits or boxed armies either, they were Magic decks and the like. How do they afford to keep their lights on and rent paid, and still make payroll? It boggles the mind. Especially when there are so many people that game there several days a week, but make all their purchases online. I just don’t understand how the business model works.

    • “I just don’t understand how the business model works.” Well, the cynical answer would be: It doesn’t work, hence hobby shops are closing down all over the place πŸ˜‰ But seriously, I think the one area where stores can actually earn enough money is if they can get customers to stick around. One pot of paint won’t feed anybody, figuratively speaking, but if I buy all of my paint there, plus a box or two of plastic crack for every other release, the money keeps adding up. And let’s not get into Magic: My cousin’s a bit of an expert, and I was actually flabbergasted at the shadow-economy behind that game…

      But anyway, I think that your point definitely stands: It’s becoming more and more difficult for stores to provide all that service to us while remaining economically viable, and when all is said and done, we can all help them make it through this or not. What really pisses me off, though, are people who spend hours at their FLGS jabbering away and then go home and order their armies online — that’s just a shitty thing to be doing!

  8. Another way to help FLGS is to donate some time or materials. My local does do trade ins for old figures for a small amount of credit which is nice, but I simply donated some of my older terrain which was collected dust unused at home. Similarly lots of other games do help out organising events for free.

    • That’s an excellent idea! And if you donate models or spend your time like that, it may just work towards fostering the kind of local hobby community that helps keeping the store afloat, which is also a bonus!

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  11. […] it wasn’t all peaches and cream: For one, there were some rather sad developments: 2016 saw my beloved FLGS, Frabusel, closing its doors for good, which still sucks (and which has also rendered the procurement of hobby supplies somewhat more […]

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